HOWIE SEE IT: 1SAMBAYAN – Victory in Unity

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By Atty. Howie Calleja

Last week’s launch of the 1SAMBAYAN coalition was the signal for free Filipinos everywhere to start convening for the 2022 general election. It was a sign that there is a clear urgency to prepare for it – to win back the country. It also drew the expected, and even necessary, criticisms. One could argue the confused or, for some, outraged comments were necessary because the debate must continue and the coalition’s initiative to blur the political lines should be addressed. Ultimately, the question posed by a multitude of netizens was “what does 1SAMBAYAN stand for and how was it birthed with a simple dream of unity?”

Many questioned the stability of the coalition when it is made up of conveners and candidates that reach every corner of the political sphere. How can it stand on its own when its legs go different directions? But it is worth mentioning that the coalition stands firmly together in two aspects: 1) fundamental moral beliefs and 2) the view that to reject our morality in the furtherance of one’s political agenda is to the detriment of not just the individual Filipino’s rights, but erodes the foundation of our country. On these points we will stand together, firm and unswayed, before we begin to walk. And then run for office.

Before the political agenda can be pursued, we must first determine the core ethical values that are non-negotiable in our pursuit to win back the country. The candidates of 1SAMBAYAN do not negotiate the basic constitutional principles (that were hard-fought and hard-won) that make our country a great democracy. We cannot allow for activists to be tagged as terrorists, the merciless killings of our countrymen to continue, the poor to face the sharp end of the sword of selective justice, and for the fear to exercise our right to assemble to prevail. These are just a few of the moral considerations that are indicative of whether or not a candidate is truly protective of the constitutional rights of the individual.

Though it is our duty as leaders to be inclusive, we will reject those who do not adhere to the basic human rights standard. This is not a matter of rejecting diversity, but celebrating humanity. Our leaders will, indeed, cross political boundaries, and there are some that might disagree with that approach, but while we may disagree with the politics of some – we are united in our view of a free and fearless Philippines. Political beliefs are no longer the foremost concern, now we hold morality above all else.

This is why 1SAMBAYAN has no political color: no red, yellows, orange, blues, or greens. We are inclusive to those who uphold the Constitution, rule of law, and good governance. In order to serve the interests of the people, politics should be color blind. The color we do wear is white: representing the whole spectrum of colors, or to some it is colorless, as we are colorblind and inclusive of all groups that genuinely love this country and its people. We reject the blood on the hands of the leadership, the “kill kill kill” mantra, and everything that has become representative of the bad governance that this administration stands for.

Though the purist in us would uphold their own biases and own political agenda, this can no longer be the mentality. While it is well-meaning and laudable to continue such uncompromising stand, we have lost election and election with our divide. We cannot lose another election to this murderous administration, putting this country in a dystopia. Before we go to our politics, we must look at our morality – walk before we run.

Though there are the immediate naysayers that are quick to state that the new coalition is composed of the affluent class, oligarchs, and the elite – these are also people who are being red-tagged and targeted for fighting for the rule of law and the unconstitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act. This is a coalition of the Filipino people, made up of people who are fighting the same fight, and who have the same concerns. It is made up of people like me, and people from all walks of life, who dream of something a little better than what we have at present – and to live in a life of peace, rather than fear of extrajudicial killings, and a life of honesty, not speculation and fake news.

One comment that had no business being made, and is downright laughable, came from the Davao mayor herself. “Authoritarian” was used to describe 1SAMBAYAN , for its formation being founded on principles that reject the current leadership’s governance. This projection is ridiculous not only because of its origin, but because it should not be assumed that inclusivity should have no limitations – even basic human rights. If that is her definition of inclusivity than it is clear why she and her father do not uphold the constitutional rights of the Filipino: because they believe them to be debatable. The “unity” in the opposition is that we refuse the moral failings of this administration.

To reject the fundamental belief in the primacy of human rights is to erode our very Constitution. The foundation of our nation is the freedom to enjoy our individual rights, and when these are threatened, we must have the courage to say enough is enough. Though we are not built on one political party, this is where we stand firm. We will select our candidates democratically, and it is impossible that the entirety of the coalition will be ecstatic with the pics, but this is what we expect because of human nature.

Our bias, political leanings, and expectations will lead us in all different ways but we will come together and embrace this diversity. It is an impossibility to agree on all the political issues being raised, or prioritized, and to pretend otherwise is not only unrealistic, but foolish. No candidate, politician, or even voter, is perfect but we can agree that murder is unequivocally wrong, corruption is prevalent, and the rule of law and constitution should prevail. We will not be “yes men” and we will continue holding the selected leaders accountable through the election, but they will have our support. When the opposition gains power, we will continue holding them accountable to their promises and remind them of the strength of the voter. To continue on with President Duterte’s hand-picked candidate and for another 6 years of this leadership’s views, or even another 12 or more years, would be unacceptable and to the detriment of the whole country. Concessions must be made, and political ambitions set aside.

This may not be enough for some, as it is obvious that there are more political concerns to be addressed. But our plea as a coalition is that we look to our core beliefs, before we debate on our varied agenda and biases. If now is the time for political debate, there will be no table to sit for common discussion; we will only be on the floor trying to pick up the scraps of our country and the dignity of the Filipino. What will prevent the opposition’s win is if we refuse a united front. We are diverse, and we can expect many disagreements, but we cannot be purist. It is after we defeat the present administration that the common and varied agenda may be put up for discussion.

Ours may not be a perfect solution, it may not even be the perfect group, but at least it is the start towards unity. It is a start towards good governance and a start towards the recovery of our nation.

There are those that say we reject leaders who disagree with us. Yes, it is true, we reject this administration, in the same way that all leaders should be expected to reject the killings of the innocent. We also reject the failure to safeguard individual rights. We reject corruption and incompetence in government service. Lastly, we reject the belief that we should blindly accept this as our reality in order to heal as one. To truly heal the deep scars, we need a healing President. One who should first heal the opposition and all the democratic forces before he or she can heal the country.

To the voter: to give the trust to 1SAMBAYAN does not end in 2022. The coalition recognizes that the trust continues throughout the term. It shall remain accountable. In return, we will give the voter, and the entirety of the Filipino people, a capable leader that can unite our divided nation.