MANILA— There is still hope for a unified opposition, even though Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso and other aspirants have declared their intention to seek the presidency, former lawmaker Neri Colmenares said.
But Colmenares, a former Bayan Muna representative, said it could be more difficult for opposition candidates to beat the administration bet.
“You see, a united opposition is the best weapon against President [Rodrigo] Duterte. An opposition that is not that united into a single one candidate will increase the level of difficulty with regards to opposing or defeating President Duterte,” Colmenares said in an interview on ANC’s “Rundown” on Thursday.
Colmenares was one of the convenors of opposition coalition 1Sambayan, which has sought a single slate of national candidates in the 2022 elections to counter the Duterte administration's bets.
He is now on leave from the group as he makes a bid for the Senate in 2022, attempting his third shot at the chamber.
“I’m not saying the opposition will lose. I’m saying it increases the level of difficulty. So that it will take double time from us,” he said.
Like 1Sambayan convenor Howard Calleja, Colmenares said things may change even after the filing of certificates of candidacy.
“Well, definitely there is still hope. We would have preferred a unified opposition right from the start, but the fact that there are already pronouncements of running, of course is not something we would have wanted, however the fact that the opposition can still unify after the filing of the certificates of candidacy,” Colmenares said.
“For example, there could be talks among the opposition, opposition members during that period, and in fact it is also very possible that along the way, there will be some, you know, arrangements for that they can unify.”
Colmenares said the 2022 elections are different because the survival of the Filipino people is at stake.
"This is the survival of the Filipino people at stake here. And so there are certain things that we need to do in order to get there,” he said.
“If we believe that we cannot survive another 6 years of incompetent COVID response…we cannot survive another 6 years of this, every day fighting with, you know, and then we have this great opportunity. There is a dwindling support of President Duterte. His popularity is going down.”
“And therefore I think a more unified message of critique to President Duterte would deliver the final blow,” he added.
“So for me, his popularity is dwindling, and this is a great opportunity for the opposition to come together, and of course to be open to consider candidates who could deliver the fatal blow on the dynasty and tyranny of President (Rodrigo) Duterte in 2022.”
An October 2020 poll showed that 91 percent of Filipinos approve of President Rodrigo Duterte's performance in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
An analyst has said it may be riskier to unite the political opposition under Vice President Leni Robredo should she decide to run for president after Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Domagoso have declared their intentions to seek the presidency.
Colmenares, for his part, said that Pacquiao’s candidacy will confuse Duterte’s supporters.
“Senator Pacquiao will definitely confuse a lot of the voters of President Duterte and supporters, and of course the Mindanao vote,” he said.
But he still expressed hope that non-administration bets could still find a way to move forward together.
“Will Senator Lacson’s vote eat up on Leni Robredo or Isko Moreno should they both run? Probably. Probably it will, but I’m still hoping there will be some unification later," he said of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who has also declared his 2022 presidential bid.
“I mean, you know, if candidates feel that you know, it’s really difficult for me to win, and maybe to ensure that we don’t have another Duterte for another 6 years I’ll sacrifice part of, you know my wish to run for office, then, there could still be that.”
He also said he hopes 1Sambayan could still continue to work to unify the opposition.
“1Sambayan has a very, very good objective and it must continue to do to pursue that objective if only to help ensure that the Filipino people win over President Duterte in 2022.”