MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – "Chairman, kung may dapat bumitaw, hindi ikaw!" (Chairman, if someone should let go, it should not be you!)
Dozens of Commission on Elections (Comelec) employees wore red shirts on Friday, August 25, to show their support for embattled Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista.
This comes after all 6 Comelec commissioners urged Bautista on Thursday, August 24, to either take a leave or resign as he faces an impeachment complaint and a feud over money with his wife. "The time for him to let go has come," the commissioners said.
Reacting to this statement, Comelec employees staged a short gathering at the ground floor of the Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros, Manila, where the Comelec main office is located.
The Comelec employees waited as Bautista returned from the 12:15 pm Mass at the nearby Manila Cathedral, which he regularly attends.
In apparent reference to the 6 Comelec commissioners, Bautista's supporters yelled: "Sino ang dapat umalis?!" "Sila!" "Sinong hindi kailangan?!" "Sila!" "Magsilayas sila!" "Sila!"
("Who should go?!" "They should!" "Who is not needed?!" "They're not!" "They should go!" "They should!")
'Nakakataba ng puso'
In an interview with reporters on Friday, Bautista said he has not made a decision on the call of the 6 Comelec commissioners for him to either take a leave of quit. He said, however, that he has always been considering these options in any case.
On his supporters, Bautista said: "Nakakataba ng puso ang kanilang pinapakita, at maraming salamat sa kanilang patuloy na pagtitiwala." (What they're showing fills my heart, and I thank them for their continuing support.)
Bautista also reacted to concerns that the Comelec is now being divided. "Hindi dahil sa akin (Not because of me)," the elections chairman said.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, however, criticized Friday's show of support for Bautista. She said it is "natural for them," especially Bautista's staff, "to show their support for him."
"They have done it before when they went to Mass with Chair Bautista and wore 'We love Chair Andy' T-shirts. They can wear whatever they like. But it is being used to divide us."
"I hope everyone in Comelec will think of the institution first above all," Guanzon told Rappler. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.