When the cause was pejorative insult, the furor was hard to placate. It became especially so because the person who did the affront refused to acknowledge it and to apologize for it. 

It was 2013. The public school teachers assigned to Davao city’s polling precincts in the first congressional district had just undergone the final testing and sealing of the vote counting machines prior to actual use on election day.

On that testing day, there were some glitches in the precinct count optical scans (PCOS). In one precinct, testing took long to conclude because three hours after the test, no paper and plastic seals had arrived. Teacher Marydel Enanoria, then serving twenty-five years in government service, said she decided to wait. “I cannot leave the PCOS unsealed, otherwise I will be dismissed or filed with a case.”

The Comelec had also advised Enanoria to use a scotch tape to seal the ballot box, a contradiction of the Comelec briefing the teachers had received where they were instructed to use only the paper seal with the corresponding serial number.  “I was really afraid to do that,” she said.

But the district’s election supervisor thought otherwise. Interviewed by media, she referred to the teachers as morons – “bugok.” And that was when the furor erupted in public.

The tropical storm the slur created was swift. Outrage immediately caught several teachers’ groups in the city, among them the Davao City Public School Teachers Association, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Davao Region Union, and the local offices of the Department of Education.

The DepEd spokesman for the region demanded a public apology. To avert a crisis of teachers to man the precincts on election day, Comelec and DepEd mediated a closed door meeting with the election supervisor in question. When a recording of the controversial interview was played, the supervisor (a lawyer, by the way) denied issuing such a statement and gaslighted that the recording was spliced. 

Instead of what was aimed as a conciliatory meeting, the election supervisor walked out. It was the Comelec Region-XI director Wilfred Jay Balisado who apologized on her behalf. “We recognize the statement as unfortunate and we are sorry for it,’ Balisado said, as he lamented that the news already went viral, especially in the social media,” DavaoToday had reported.

Teachers from various public schools in Davao city, including retired ones, picketed the offices of Comelec Region-XI, demanding an apology. “You don’t know what our sacrifices were,” raged retired teacher Teresita Abundo.

An angry Don Pagusara, opinion writer of DavaoToday, remarked: “Certain public officials think that the little authority invested in their official position also grants them the license to be arrogant.  They act like little emperors or empresses over their little dominions or ‘turfs.” 

True enough on canvassing day after the voting, 8% of the district’s clustered precincts had transmission problems. There were defective memory cards, non-printing of election returns, and non-transmittal of ballots. Teachers were confronted with malfunctioning PCOS machines. The controversial election supervisor, acting as the chair of the City Board of Canvassers, had her blood pressure shot up. Canvassing was stalled. She was escorted out of the canvassing room and brought to a waiting ambulance. To this day, she has never apologized. 

That notorious election supervisor for Davao city’s first congressional district – the district where the Rodrigo Duterte family votes – was Aimee Ferolino Ampoloquio.

When she was appointed Comelec commissioner on November 2020, all press releases that emanated from Comelec simply said she was “election supervisor of Davao del Norte, a lawyer with over two decades of experience in the poll body.”

Quoting Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas, other press releases saidFerolino-Ampoloquio first joined Comelec as an emergency laborer in 1994 and became an election assistant for 12 years. She was an election officer for a decade before she became Davao del Norte’s provincial election supervisor.”

All the data sheet either from Comelec or the government’s Philippine News Agency was silent on Ferolino’s Davao city stint. Was it carefully curated to hide conflict of interest of the appointing power’s Davao city provenance? And/or was it deliberately muted to erase all references to her very public tiff with public school teachers who were in her area of responsibility’s Board of Election Inspectors? 

Aimee Ferolino Ampoloquio, complete unknown in the national stage, non-vetted by the sovereign Filipino people except the people of Davao city, is our first Comelec commissioner in history to create a law that non-payment of taxes is not punishable. Are we surprised?