Vying for the presidential seat in the 2022 National Elections are the few brave candidates who seek to put an end to the authoritarian rule of President Rodrigo Duterte and his cronies, and to dampen the strong support for the Bongbong Marcos-Sara Duterte-Carpio tandem. With this common goal, talks of uniting these candidates to form one opposition under the 1Sambayan coalition have been surfacing since March 2021—but divided motives and stances make this seem impossible.
Contrasting the capitalist and elitist status quo, opposition groups have geared toward more pressing matters of resisting corruption and holding people accountable for counts of human rights violations.
Atty. Luke Espiritu, a senatorial candidate of the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), highlights that the opposition has been going against the notion that there is nothing left for the Filipino working class. “[They] have gathered and discussed the matter and they try to answer the question: ‘What is better to unite or not to unite?’ It’s the nature of the [existing] political or electoral system that we have these divisions right now,” he expresses.
The senatoriable further vocalizes the perceivable discrimination of oppositionists in terms of mass media exposure, citing PLM’s presidential candidate Leody de Guzman’s exclusion from the presidential candidate interviews conducted by ABS-CBN and GMA News and Current Affairs. As a result, they plan to gain exposure by creating their own platforms.
“We don’t invent our platforms; our platforms come directly from the actual struggles of the masses. In our everyday lives, as mass movement organizations, there is an organic link between what we can say and the mass movement that we belong to,” Espiritu asserts. “That is a strength because no trapo party, no trapo candidate has that.”
These candidates with different partylists are being supported by pro-democracy parties on the left like Bayan Muna, and retired military party Magdalo on the right. And although candidates have respective political ideologies, those from the single slate endorsed by 1Sambayan’s coalition set aside differences to build the long-sought united opposition bloc against President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration’s bets in the upcoming elections.
Seeding unity talks
Former De La Salle Philippines President and 1Sambayan Convenor Br. Armin Luistro FSC further discloses that, before the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs), their chosen presidential candidate Vice President Leni Robredo took the initiative to “broker the talks” herself.
Robredo, alongside the coalition, earlier reached out to Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Sen. Manny Pacquiao in an attempt to unify the opposition. After the filing of COCs, however, the unity talks no longer continued when the presidential aspirants chose to pursue their own campaigns.
Luistro clarifies that this is due to most of 1Sambayan’s work being informal. He affirms that their coalition is different from political parties as they share no formal arrangements with their candidates, explaining why Moreno and Pacquiao are no longer associated with the alliance.
“There’s a nuance between working with an alliance, in an alliance, and publicly saying that they are members,” he explains. “We really are not a political party, so we don’t ask them to…make the panunumpa or sign a document that they are our members.”
Although other opposition groups have formed their own slates, Luistro believes that 1Sambayan has the strongest one. “It doesn’t look like there’s any other credible group that can bring together the various opposition forces,” he contends.
He also credits the progression of the alliance to the broad spectrum of the political views among their members.
Hearing the youth
Undeterred by the lack of coordination among opposition candidates, youth voters have expressed their optimism toward 1Sambayan’s initiative to unite candidates from different political spectrums, preferring them over “less qualified” personalities in the electoral race.
“[It] is a very good decision—considering the fact that we are up against populists with questionable track records, from well-established political dynasties this 2022,” says Calvin Almazan (III, BS-LGL), executive vice president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines.
However, he remarks that while the opposition is currently in a better state, it is still very “volatile and fragile”.
Erika Castro (I, AB-OSDM) agrees with Almazan’s sentiments and shares that the divided state of opposition may be due to candidates who claim to be part of the opposition, but are not and only try to appear as such, to gain more voters.
“[These candidates] seek to reverse the damages that the Duterte administration has done but have been slowly showing traits that are reminiscent of the current administration,” Castro opines.
The candidates’ ideals to build an improved or progressive country are also factors for disharmony, Cholo De Vera (II, BS-ECE2) says, pointing out that the candidates come from different backgrounds and have different focus sectors for their platforms.
As it stands, the opposition’s call to serve the masses and to rally behind other candidates’ electoral platforms have amassed support especially from the youth sector, with around 100 youth organizations endorsing Robredo for the presidency. Despite this, Almazan warns, “The polls are saying otherwise,” advising that the opposition should not be complacent of the current situation.
To increase the opposition’s winnability, Castro encourages supporters to engage in mass groundwork instead of “just staying online and fighting with trolls.” Meanwhile, De Vera notes that the candidates must maximize campaign platforms for them to be heard by the masses. “Attending presidential debates and giving themselves exposure can help them be known to more communities,” he stresses.
Holding out for hope
With only a few months left before the May elections, the possibility of a united opposition is a blur. Even for PLM, Espiritu confides that there are “no significant negotiations” from other coalitions to come into terms with them as of press time.
Although their party continues to prioritize articulating the interests of the working class, he apprises that they are open to working with other opposition parties to fight against democratic struggles that may be brought about by the Marcos-Duterte tandem.
Luistro, on the other hand, shares that 1Sambayan plans to secure wins for the opposition by engaging conversations with the public in hopes of convincing Filipinos with the coalition and their candidates’ principles.
Efforts have indeed been exhausted to form what is currently the opposition. However, it would take more than just hope to achieve what the force strives for: an end to the injustices and abuse of power that threaten the nation.