Two questions were immediately raised by the recent launching of a movement intended to bury together all groups and persons opposed to the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The first question was, why did the organizers of the movement consider it necessary to issue, at this point - one year before the end of Mr. Duterte’s term - a clarion call for Opposition unity? The second question was, to which groups and persons was the call directed?
The first question is easily answered. The call for Opposition unity at this point is intended to prevent a repetition of the 2016 fiasco, which saw the Liberal Party and parties of similar persuasion split two candidacies for the presidency, to wit, the candidacy of Liberal Party president Mar Roxas and the candidacy of Senator Grace Poe.
The Liberals, which had the all-out support of the outgoing administration of Liberal President Benigno Aquino III, believed that Mr. Roxas would manage to beat Ms. Poe by a respectable margin despite her popularity.
On the other hand, the people in the Poe camp, banking on her being the daughter of the late movie icon FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.) were convinced that they could beat the Liberal Party machinery and get their lady elected.
Early in the 2015-2016 political season there were fervid attempts to put Mr. Roxas and Ms. Poe in one team, with the Liberal Party president as the party standard-bearer. Powerful political figures tried to get Senator Poe to agree to be the vice-presidential candidate. But there was no getting FPJ’s daughter to move down to vice-presidential candidate; she was convinced that a majority of Filipinos would elect her president given their survey ratings, the pollsters believed that Roxas-Poe would be the winning tandem in the May 2016 polls.
By the time Rodrigo Duterte surged in the polls a few weeks before Election Day, it was too late. The Liberal Party and the Poe camp were determined to go their separate ways, believing that their candidacy could defeat all their opponents, including the surging Mr. Duterte.
The rest of the story is, as they say, history. With the support of the Grace Poe votes, Mar Roxas would very likely have obtained a majority of the votes for President, Davao City’s mayor was proclaimed the winner by a mere 36 percent of the national vote.
The organizers of the “Oppositionists Unite” movement want to make sure that there is no repetition of the Roxas-Poe fiasco. This early, they want the groups interested in fielding a candidate in the coming presidential election to come forward and discuss the strengths - and weaknesses - of their respective candidates, with a view to uniting behind the strongest candidate.
Another 2016-type situation, with the Opposition vote divided between two, or even three, candidates is a formula for sure disaster. The possibility of a Duterte succeeding Rodrigo Duterte should be a sufficient motivator for all Oppositionists to come together in one united and powerful political force.
Now, the second question. Apart from the Liberal Party and the parties of the Left, to whom was the call for Opposition groups and persons to unite diverted? The answer is obvious: some members of the super majorities in Congress, especially the House of Representatives, consistent with Philippine political culture, some members of the supermajorities are where they are solely for opportunistic reasons. They are not inextricably attached to the PDP-Laban structure; as the 2022 election nears, some of them will begin to explore possibilities and prospects beyond the lameduck Duterte administration.
As the 2021-2022 political season begins; uncertainties and changeabilities abound. The organizers of the “Oppositionists Unite” initiative know this. But one thing they know for sure: there must be no repetition of the Roxas-Poe fiasco. Which is why they have, early in the day, issued their call to unity.