'United opposition' to challenge Duterte admin bets in 2022 elections

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 18) — The opposition failed to win a single seat in the 2019 senatorial elections, but a newly launched coalition will try to change that in 2022.

1Sambayan—a broad coalition of pro-democracy groups—was launched Thursday by retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario.

The coalition seeks to field a single slate of candidates that would challenge the administration's bets.

"We in the 1Sambayan will unify the democratic forces in the country to bring good governance to the Filipino people," Carpio said. "In the coming 2022 national elections, the Filipino people should elect national leaders who have integrity, competence, patriotism and a vision for the country.”

Vice President Leni Robredo topped the list of people being eyed by 1Sambayan. Other possible candidates are Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, Senators Grace Poe and Nancy Binay, and former Senator Sonny Trillanes.

Robredo, who has yet to announce if she's running for the highest post in the land, said she's honored to be considered.

"We respect the independent process being conducted by 1Sambayan, and hope it will truly result in a greater degree of unity among democratic constituencies moving forward to 2022," Robredo's spokesperson Atty. Barry Gutierrez said in a statement.

The coalition's convenors will screen the aspirants based on their "clean track record, upright stand on key issues, platforms, and competence."

Aside from Carpio, Morales, and Del Rosario, 1Sambayan's convenors include Bro. Armin Luistro, Fr. Albert Alejo, retired Admiral Rommel Ong, Atty. Howard Calleja, former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, former Negros Occidental Governor Rafael Coscolluela, former Commission on Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, Partido Manggagawa's Renato Magtubo, and Rickie Xavier.

An online poll will also be conducted to gauge the possible candidates' winnability, taking into account as well other polling groups' surveys.

From a shortlist, all coalition members will vote for their preferred candidates.

But as early as now, 1Sambayan is not considering some names, like Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and Senator Manny Pacquiao.

"We reject those who are identified with authoritarianism. We reject those who are responsible for extrajudicial killings (EJK) or who abet EJKs. And we reject those who violate human rights. Duterte is the exponent of authoritarianism. He has several times said that he will trash the Constitution. We do not think that the daughter of the President will qualify under our coalition," Carpio explained.

The President’s daughter has been topping recent surveys, while Pacquiao is also identified with the President.

"He has supported the war on drugs and he has stated that in the Senate. He is also for death penalty although he quotes the Bible. So, it will be difficult for us to consider him considering his affiliation with President Duterte," Carpio added.

For his part, Luistro said they would seek candidates who share the same values with the coalition.

"If they still support the death penalty or EJK, I think that goes against what we believe in and that goes against what Filipinos value. That would be part of the criteria for us," he told CNN Philippines' News Night.

Asked what will be the coalition's edge, Luistro said they will listen to the people on the ground.

"So we feel that the basic aspirations of those on the ground have not really reached the ears of the government," he added. "If you ask the poor, not survey, you go house-to-house, you will recognize that many people are suffering today."

But Carpio stressed they can only win if they will remain united.

For Malacañang, it's too early to talk about the 2022 elections.

In his virtual briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said politics should be set aside first as the country is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Iyan naman po ang aming sinasabi palagi, isantabi muna po ang pulitika habang nandito po sa pandemya," Roque said.

[Translation: That's what we keep saying all along. Let's set aside politics while there is still a pandemic.]