MANILA (UPDATE) - A coalition of different groups, led by former high-ranking officials of the country, was launched Thursday to seek a single slate of national candidates in the 2022 elections to counter the Duterte administration's bets.
There should only be one "pro-democracy opposition candidate" to avoid dividing the votes of those who do not agree with the current administration, the group 1Sambayan said.
Leading the coalition, which was formally launched in Makati, are retired Justice Antonio Carpio, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, among others. The three former officials have been vocal against President Rodrigo Duterte's policy on the South China Sea.
"The Filipino people deserve a better government,” said Carpio, 1Sambayan Chairman, according to a statement of the group.
"1Sambayan believes coming together as one will prevent a repeat of the scenario in 2016, when a president won by a plurality but not a majority of votes," the group said.
"It is, then, just a matter of choosing that one candidate for each national position," it added.
The group's convenors said they are looking to endorse a candidate who has a clean track record, an upright stand on key issues, platforms that address the country's current problems, "recall among the voting population... and the verve to compete with other candidates for the people’s votes."
1Sambayan said it would "conduct their own online survey and take into account other surveys by reputable organizations to gauge the winnability of the aspiring candidates."
The coalition’s convenors will create a shortlist of possible candidates and "thoroughly interview each aspirant and examine their eligibility and qualifications for office," the group's statement read.
President Rodrigo Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, and PDP-Laban acting president Manny Pacquiao would not be included in the shortlist, Del Rosario told reporters.
The group 'rejects' candidates who are supportive of Duterte's authoritarian policies, he said, when asked if 1Sambayan would consider backing the two.
"The Filipino people should reject all those identified with dictatorship and authoritarianism, reject all those responsible for or who abet extrajudicial killings and whose mantra is 'kill, kill, kill,' and all those who violate human rights," he said.
Duterte had said in 2018 that he had to be a "dictator" to put the country in order, and that his “only sin” was extrajudicial killings.
Early this month, he also directed government troops to "ignore" human rights when they carry out his order to shoot dead armed communist rebels during encounters.
Amid the criticisms, Duterte had been getting high approval and satisfaction ratings in surveys conducted by some pollsters, with a Pulse Asia survey in September last year showing that 91 percent of Filipinos approve of his performance in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
A Social Weather Stations survey in December 2019 also revealed that the administration scored an "excellent" or net satisfaction rating of +73 at the time.
During the 2019 mid-term elections, nine senatorial candidates endorsed by Duterte and three independents won. None from the opposition slate made it.
DUTERTE-CARPIO AND PACQUIAO REACTIONS
Duterte-Carpio, who had repeatedly stated she is not running for the Presidency in 2022, slammed 1Sambayan's statement, saying the coalition is sowing disunity.
"They claim to be a coalition of democratic forces but they reject so many who do not agree with them. They sound authoritarian to me," said the chair of the regional alliance Hugpong ng Pagbabago.
"Kung gusto nila maging successful, dapat ang panawagan nila ay magkaisa. What this country needs is unity, not messages with the word reject," she said.
(If they want to be successful, they should call for unity. What this country needs is unity, not messages with the word reject.)
Pacquiao, for his part, stuck with his recent pronouncements as he reiterated that "this is not the best time to talk about these political line-ups."
Some members of the ruling political party have signed a resolution earlier this month asking Duterte to run for Vice President in 2022, a move Pacquiao declared to be illegitimate.
Last week, Duterte said his longtime aide, Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, had told him of his desire to be President. The lawmaker said it was just a joke, but he said he might change his mind if Duterte decides to run for Vice President.
Meanwhile, political analyst Ramon Casiple said 1Sambayan's launch has signaled the start of the "election season" heading to the 2022 polls.
He said that even if the group has yet to name its candidates it is clear with its intent to meet head on any candidate the administration might field.
"Political people na ito, kahit sabihin a Supreme Court justice sila before, the fact na lumitaw sila sa ganyang context... naghihintay na ako d'yan na may sasabihin silang pangalan ng kandidato later. Yung iba dyan may bibira sa kanila, hindi maiiwasan yan e. Season na," said Casiple.
"Ang eleksyon natin isang taon iyan. Napapanahon na para simulan na magusap usap para sa pulitika."
When asked what 1Sambayan must do to succeed against an administration-backed candidate, Casiple said it should field only one presidential bet.
"Dapat isang kandidato lang. Kasi kung sila sila maghiwahiwalay. Sigurado magkakaproblema agad. Kung isa lang ang kalaban ng administrasyon, mas malaki ang tsansa," he said. - with reports from Katrina Domingo and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News