Philippines: Duterte Opponents Form Coalition to Nominate 2022 Presidential Candidate

Dennis Jay Santos and Richel V. Umel
Davao, Philippines
2021-03-18
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Philippines: Duterte Opponents Form Coalition to Nominate 2022 Presidential Candidate Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo, a potential presidential candidate in 2022, speaks to reporters in Manila, Dec. 16, 2019.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

Top Philippine political opposition figures launched a coalition on Thursday to nominate a viable candidate for next year’s presidential race, with an aim of undoing Rodrigo Duterte’s policies, including his war on drugs that has left thousands dead.

The coalition, 1Sambayan, is chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and has among its members former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and ex-ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

“Our economic development has been set back not only because of the pandemic, but also because of the mishandling by the present administration of the response to the pandemic,” Carpio said at the virtual launch of the coalition.

“The Filipino people should reject all those identified with dictatorship and authoritarianism, reject all those responsible for or who abet extrajudicial killings and whose mantra is ‘kill, kill, kill,’ and all those who violate human rights,” said Carpio, as he branded Duterte’s government “incompetent.”

Carpio was referring to Duterte’s war on drugs, a platform launched shortly after he took office in 2016.

The drug war has resulted in nearly 8,000 deaths of suspected addicts and dealers, according to government figures, while rights activists say thousands more have been killed. Families of those killed as well two people who claim to be a part of one of his alleged death squads have filed complaints against Duterte at The Hague-based International Criminal Court.

In December 2020, the ICC’s chief prosecutor said it had reason to believe that “crimes against humanity” had occurred under Duterte’s leadership.

West Philippine Sea

Carpio also called on the public to reject those who “refuse to defend and protect” the country’s territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea – the Philippine name for the South China Sea.

Despite an international tribunal rejecting Beijing’s vast claims to the sea shortly after Duterte took office, he sought to appease China in exchange for economic concessions, using conciliatory language about the Asian giant.

Recently, Duterte has used stronger rhetoric against China, but has maintained that Manila was ill-equipped militarily to challenge Beijing.

Carpio is the legal counsel representing del Rosario and his cousin, Carpio-Morales, as they seek to reopen an ICC complaint against Chinese leader Xi Jinping for alleged crimes against humanity in the sea region.

Vaccines

Lately, Duterte has appeared to put the territorial dispute on the back burner as he negotiated free COVID-19 vaccines from Chinese firm Sinovac this month, according to analysts. Still, the Philippines was among the last Southeast Asian nation to vaccinate its people, and so far, only a fraction of the nation’s more than 110 million people have received jabs.

Carpio said that instead of focusing on the virus response and reigniting the economy, Duterte and his aides have been preoccupied with shutting down the free press and going after its critics.

In 2020, the House of Representatives dominated by Duterte allies denied an application from ABS-CBN television network to renew its 25-year license. In June, journalist Maria Ressa, the editor and chief executive of the Rappler news website, was convicted of cyber-libel. The network and Rappler had reported extensively on the drug war.

Del Rosario said restoring “good governance” was critical. He accused the strongman president of being “morally bankrupt” as he called for a new set of competent leaders.

“Of paramount importance is the need for us to unite so that we can choose a singular presidential candidate and a singular vice presidential candidate for the next election in 2022. If we are able to do this and avoid splitting votes, we will win,” del Rosario said. 

The coalition also seeks to nominate a slate of 12 candidates for national senate races.

Under Philippine law, a president is limited to a single six-year term. Posters urging the president’s daughter, Sara Duterte, to run for office have popped up around the capital recently, although Duterte’s aides have denied that they are pushing this.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who has spent her term questioning the drug war, has emerged as a top potential contender for the coalition’s nomination, although she has not addressed calls for her to run.

On Thursday, Duterte spokesman Harry Roque declined to comment on politics, saying the Philippines was in the middle of a pandemic.

“It is too early to talk about the election and politics. That’s what we always say. Let’s set aside politics while the pandemic is here,” Roque said.

“It is not yet the time for politics, but we cannot stop them,” he said of the coalition’s meeting. “I wish them the best.”

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