The Commission on Elections on Tuesday suspended the implementation of its fact-checking agreement with news website Rappler after the government's top lawyer brought the issue before the Supreme Court.
Comelec acting chairperson Socorro Inting issued a memorandum on the suspension "until the issues are settled and/or a decision of the court is rendered." She cited the concerns raised by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
"All actions in connection with the MOA shall be deferred, including coordination between the Commission and Rappler on matters of the MOA," she added.
Rappler on Feb. 24 signed a memorandum of agreement with Comelec to help the poll body disseminate election-related information and engage voters both online and offline.
Under the agreement, Rappler will provide content, infographics and educational videos to raise awareness on the May 9 vote, according to Comelec. An online show, podcast, workshops and seminars will also be produced.
A precinct finder and post finder will also be made available on Rappler's website once it becomes available, the Comelec said, making these services more mobile-responsive and accessible to voters.
Calida told the Supreme Court on Monday that the MOA should be nullified for violating the Constitution and other laws.
He said Rappler is a "foreign non-registered entity," and that the MOA would allow the news website to interfere with the elections as the Comelec "co-shared" with it the power to decide on all questions affecting the elections.
Allowing Rappler to flag the Comelec on election-related posts that it deems "false, misleading, and harmful" also constitutes prior restraint on freedom of speech and of expression, he added.
Prior to issuing the memorandum, Inting said the Comelec would adhere to the Supreme Court's decision on the matter.
"If the court finds the MOA to be infirm, then we cannot do anything. We have to respect the law, the decision of the court," she said.