Following the same steps that drove  Corazon Aquino to the Philippine presidency back in 1986, a group of “convenors” is plotting to unite all the forces opposed to the Duterte regime by uniting behind a single candidate to face whoever the President chooses to take his place in next year’s elections.

The group held their first meeting at the Makati Sports Club last March 17.

Calling themselves 1Sambayan, the group led by retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio includes former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario, and former Education secretary Bro. Armin Luistro.

Their first hurdle was: Should former Duterte followers and traditional politicians be welcomed into the organization?

From the start, the group made it clear  they were not a political organization with the previous Aquino administration. The purpose of their getting together was to avoid the same mistake in the 2016 election when too many candidates allied with the Aquino government split the progressive vote and consequently made Rodrigo Duterte win by plurality.

While Mar Roxas was the anointed candidate of former President Benigno Aquino, the likes of Grace Poe and Jejomar Binay were also perceived to be friendly to the then administration.

While an independent, the ailing Miriam Defensor-Santiago was the fifth major candidate for president in 2016. But her choice of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as her running mate indicated that she was aligning herself with the late dictator.  Duterte also openly leaned towards the Marcos family, which offered him financial support.

1Sambayan promised to avoid that mistake by following the 1986 formula of all the opponents of Marcos agreeing to field a single candidate in the person of Corazon Aquino.

It will not be an easy task because in all presidential elections after 1986, four or five candidates ran for president.

At the organizational meeting of 1Sambayan, one side said there was no place for personalities previously tied to the Duterte camp, while the other side preferred to follow the old adage that politics is a matter of numbers.

Former vice-president Binay (who had gone into retirement after losing in his presidential bid in 2016 then a  loss in the congressional elections in 2019) had been issuing statements in support of 1Sambayan.

His daughter, Sen. Nancy Binay, was in the initial list of possible nominees but the former vice- president did not receive any welcome from the organizers of the movement.

Netizens, meanwhile, gave the thumbs down to City of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno as well as Sen. Grace Poe. The former because he has often allied himself with the Duterte administration, while the latter has been blamed for running for president in 2016, when she should have slid down to vice-president.

Moreno expressed his gratitude for being included in the list but said he was presently focused on combating the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

It came as no surprise that Vice-president Leni Robredo was the favored bet of 1Sambayan. Robredo’s membership run the gamut from extreme right (the Magdalo party of former senator Antonio Trillanes) all the way to  legal Left organizations which have a number of party-list representatives in the House.

Meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte – believed to be the administration’s bet to run for president next year – said 1Sambayan was acting in an authoritarian manner when it rejected “so many who do not agree with them.”

“What this country needs is a unity not messages with the word reject,” she said.