MANILA— Opposition coalition 1Sambayan on Thursday urged Filipinos to unite behind Vice President Leni Robredo in the 2022 elections, saying her run for the presidency is "a light of hope that comes at a time of great uncertainty."
The leading opposition figure announced Thursday she would run for the highest post, which she cast as a fight for the country's survival.
"We in 1Sambayan stand firm behind VP Leni in her presidential bid in the 2022 national elections," the group, which has 3 million members from 123 organizations, said in a statement.
"It is a light of hope that comes at a time of great uncertainty: a country on its knees due to a failed pandemic response, a struggling economy, and a backdrop of the loss of lives and livelihood for the Filipino people."
1Sambayan noted that Robredo's bid for Malacañang would be an "uphill battle" against the Duterte administration's vast resources.
"If we remain divided, we will stand to lose more than just the elections: we will lose our country, our democracy and integrity in public service," the group said.
1Sambayan called on "every peace and democracy-loving Filipinos" to stand behind Robredo, also a human rights lawyer and widow of a former interior minister.
"Unity will define this historic exercise of our right to choose the right leader. Unity will allow us to defeat whoever Duterte anoints as successor. Unity will help us take Leni Robredo to the presidency for the sake of our country and our people," the group said.
"1Sambayan is now #TeamLeniRobredo."
For party-list group Akbayan, Robredo's presidential run is a "game-changer".
"Next year's election is now a battle between democracy's best defender, and the offspring of past and present dictators," the group said in a statement.
Akbayan, which focuses on social justice in the country, expressed full support for Robredo and urged its members to make her the next president.
"Akbayan stood by her in 2016 when she made her historic "one percent to vice president" journey. We are more than proud to rally behind VP Leni once again as she seeks the presidency," the group said.
Robredo's decision comes after her nemesis Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son and namesake of the country's former dictator, said Tuesday he would run for the top job.
Robredo narrowly defeated Marcos Jr for the nation's second highest office in 2016, dealing a blow to the political aspirations of the powerful clan as they sought to rehabilitate their image.
So far, more than 40 candidates have registered to run for president in the May elections, but the field will narrow significantly in the coming months.
Election season kicked off this month, with candidates flocking to the offices of the elections commission to file their nominations.
The process launched a typically noisy and deadly seven months of campaigning for more than 18,000 positions, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn caused by lockdowns expected to dampen the atmosphere.
—With a report from Agence France-Presse