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United we (should) stand

In order to prevent the likes of what happened 50 years ago, we—candidates and supporters alike—must band together, all for the sake of this country.

In March 2021, former Chief Justice Antonio Carpio claimed that the opposition could only win if it unites. Months later, the publication released an editorial calling for presidential aspirants Ka Leody de Guzman and Vice President Leni Robredo to unite and to overcome presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his running mate Sara Duterte-Carpio’s influence among Filipinos.

One year since Carpio’s call, it seems that his words have fallen on deaf ears. Marcos Jr. again topped a Pulse Asia presidential preferences survey for February at 60 percent share—four times higher than Robredo’s share in the survey. With this, I again call on those who have rallied against Marcos Jr. and his father’s atrocities to unite.

Remember that it also took unity to block Ferdinand Marcos Sr. from winning the 1986 snap elections. Then presidential aspirant Doy Laurel conceded to become Cory Aquino’s running mate when it became clear that they will only win against Marcos Sr. if they run as one tandem. Today, candidates must likewise give way if there is any hope to overcome insurmountable odds. Other candidates have either come into conflict with Marcos Jr.’s camp or have openly aired their sentiments against the Marcos regime. These stands can be rallying points for candidates to come together and to oppose Marcos Jr.

It is disheartening to see the lack of urgency among candidates to discern who their common foe is. It is this failure to realize that they will stand defeated should they not pool their support. Do we still need to endure the same suffering that happened in the past just to grasp the importance of stopping a disaster before it begins?

However, this suggestion will create conflicting values between different candidates and voters, which will result in disagreements. After all, Laurel and Aquino butted heads just two years after the EDSA Revolution. In fact, it was Robredo reaching out to candidates Isko Moreno and Manny Pacquiao that partly started the infighting among Robredo and De Guzman supporters when the latter expressed opposition to the act. But this measure can also be in response to Marcos Jr.’s maintained popularity in surveys.

Supporters, too, will soon have to ask themselves what compromises and negotiations they are willing to make in terms of their values and stances if it means preventing another Marcos presidency. While we try to differentiate candidates as much as possible, some share the same goals, platforms, aspirations for the country. These include areas in agriculture, food security, economic recovery, and pandemic response. Through discussion and dialogue among different candidates and their supporters, we can agree on how things should be done and on what is best for the country. The same can help candidates agree with each other that Marcos Jr. will not benefit the country as much as his supporters claim. Discussions will make it easier for candidates to join forces. It can also present opportunities for others to be confident in the candidate they would collectively endorse and mold into the leader who would represent the interests of the various sectors they all champion. This would present a united front.

Admittedly, we will have to choose the lesser of two evils in this scenario but this is a likely adjustment we have to make. Candidates can increase their own support bases, but that could cause further division and conflict among those against Marcos Jr. We can do business-as-usual campaigning and leave different camps to their own devices, but that would mean the chances of overpowering Marcos Jr. would decrease. It is a necessary conversation to have, no matter how difficult it will be for all sides. Just like how the Marcos and Duterte families have come together in their own “UniTeam”, it is high time for different candidates to collectively meet the challenge. As Edmund Burke puts it, “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one.”

There may come a time when we have to vote for who we hate less instead of voting according to who we stand for. However, recall what happened before when people from all walks of life set aside their differences and came together to overthrow Marcos Sr. It is time for that to happen again.

Marcos Jr.’s popularity may change in the next two months leading up to the elections. Survey results may turn out not to reflect actual voting preferences. But one thing remains clear: Marcos Jr. leading these surveys by a large margin is neither something that can be cast aside as inaccurate nor  something that could be ignored.

Unification may become the last card we can play. Rather, it is a card I hope we consider today if we want to prevent what happened 50 years ago.

By Dustin Albert Sy

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