“I’m in yellow, and I look like Jim Paredes,” said Adrian Sison.

While famous personalities dominate this year’s elections, Sison struggled to be recognized before his interview.

Sison is one of the three senatorial bets of the little-known alternative political party, Ang Kapatiran or the Alliance of the Common Good. It is a political party established three years ago by the Christian lay group Kapatiran sa Pangkalahatang Kabutihan (KPK). Among its founders were the current Ang Kapatiran president Attorney Mario Ongkiko, gun control advocate Atty. Nandy Pachoco, former commercial banker Rene Peronilla and entrepreneurs Benny de Guzman, David Lim, Manolo Dayrit. In a statement from their official website, the former KPK announced that they were “no longer just advocating the common good but working towards it.”

Sison runs alongside Dr. Martin Bautista and Atty. Zosimo Paredes. The three candidates are aware that they are unknown and it might work against them.

“Talagang nahihirapan kami (We’re having a difficult time). It has been the habit and the tradition of this country, especially among the voters, (to) go for mere popularity… Don’t judge us by that standard. The standard, anyway, is wrong” said Paredes in an interview.

Instead, Paredes believed that they should be judged based on their credentials, because that is the testament of what they could do as legislators. And credentials they do have.

Sison, 51, has many accomplishments to his name. After finishing his degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in Ateneo de Manila University, he took up Law in the University of the Philippines. In 1986, he was admitted into the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. Soon after, he became a legal assistant to Commissioner Edmundo Garcia in the Constitutional Commission of 1986. That same year, he also became a Confidential Attorney at the Court of Appeals.

Sison also worked as a legal assistant for the McManus Law Office in Melbourne, Australia, in 1989. He became an associate in the Mario Ongkiko Law Office a year after. From 1995 to 2001, he was a senior associate in the Misa Law Office.

In 2001, he set-up his own law office, the Adrian Consulting Law Office, where he advises clients on business, taxation, estate planning, family law, telecommunications policy, litigation, corporate matters and legislation. He’s currently teaching Law in Assumption College.

His experience as a lawyer also allowed him to briefly enter politics in 1988. He became the Chief of Staff of Representative Teresa Aquino-Oreta. He was her legal adviser, managing her office, drafting legislation and campaigning for votes to pass their bills into law.

Besides law, Sison also works in media. He’s a radio broadcaster on DWBR 104.3 FM and Radio Veritas. He is also a columnist on Computerworld Philippines. He also became the Legal Department Manager of the Associated Broadcasting Company, where he drafted the various production contracts which are still being used today. He also served in the Board of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas where he drafted the amendments of the Radio and Television Code. Today, he teaches Broadcasting and Telecommunications Policy at the Electronics and Communications Department of Ateneo.

Outside of work, Sison is very involved in community and parish work. His parents, Luis Sison and Asuncion Ordoñez Sison, are members of the Marriage Encounter Foundation and the Christian Family Movement. Sison, married to Margarita Sison and with two children, is a speaker for family life and relationships.

Sison’s partymates are highly-qualified as well. Bautista finished BS Zoology in UP and pursued Medicine right after. He took residency training Gastroenterology in the State University of New York in Brooklyn and established his own practice in Oklahoma. Paredes, on the other hand, is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy. He served in the military for 17 years before taking up Law in the Baguio Colleges Foundation and MA Economics in UP Diliman. In 1984, he won a legislative seat as a Representative of the province of Ifugao. In 2004, he was appointed the Executive Director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

For the party, their credentials and background set them apart from the traditional politicians. In fact, the battle cry of Ang Kapatiran is Kontra Trapo (No to traditional politicians). “We are against people who are not supposed to be in this, and they insist on being there. Actors who want to be legislators, and I don’t think they have the credentials for it. This is what we are against. We call this celebrity politics,” said Paredes.

“Now we should stop electing people who are just so popular or known. We should elect people who can make a difference, who know what the problems are,” said Sison. He believes that his experiences as a lawyer allow him to propose realistic solutions to those problems.

A primary example of this is Sison’s take on the problematic Philippine economy.

“These traditional families running the country for practically the last 40 years, they should stop running… because they have not improved the economic lot of our country. They’ve allowed our country to deteriorate and to have so much debt…

“Our economic adviser said that the treasury of the government would not release what the public debt is. Why is that important? Because… we have to know how that debt is being paid. Where is the money coming from? Is it revenue? Or are they restructuring it, or borrowing more money?

“That’s one of the reasons why we’re running for Senate. As senators, we will have access to that information. Pwede naming hingin yun kasi ang Senado, kasama ng Lower House, ang siyang nag-aapruba ng pagbayad ng utang (We can ask for the information, because it’s the Senate and the Lower House who approve debt repayment.),” said Sison

For Sison, the solution to increasing debts is privatization. “Tataas ‘yang utang na ‘yan, kasi interest rates and all that (The debts are only going to increase because of interest rates and all that). You might as well sell your assets. Ibigay mo na sa private sector, mas kaya nilang gumastos diyan. Ang gobyerno, sobra-sobra na ang utang (Give it to the private sector because they can spend on that. Our government is already mired in debts),” he said.

As a taxation lawyer, Sison also believed that there must also be a proper taxation scheme in the country. “The value-added tax (VAT) actually saved the economy of this country for the President, despite all the borrowings they did. The value-added tax is a direct tax on every goods and services that you buy, and so they were able to collect it at source. And because of that, the deficits went down. That’s one of the positives I would admit in favor of the government. They were able to bring down deficit spending… In fact, they promise a balanced budget in two years’ time. I hope and I pray that this succeeds.”

“The economy is seemingly growing. But what’s missing is the distribution,” said Sison. So, more than imposing VAT, Sison also proposed to cut income taxes from 32% to 17% as an incentive for companies to share profits with their employees.

For Sison, however, the growth pattern is not enough. “The economy shouldn’t just rely on trade liberalization. We have to find out how we can develop technology. We should spend more money on research and development, developing innate technology, based on our resources, what’s here, like in agriculture,” he said.

In line with industrialization, Sison also stresses the importance of sustainable development. “We have to really enforce the Clean Air Act properly… They’re saying that… Metro Manila is among the dirtiest cities in terms of its aerial environment.”

Education is also a crucial link in helping our economy. Sison said, “Our education budget, percentage-wise, is one of the lowest in the world. We should set aside at least 5% of our annual budget on education. Our quality of education has deteriorated, both in the public level and the private level. Why do I say that? It’s because many of our graduates have difficulty working.”

As a senatorial candidate, he not only focuses on economic matters, but controversial political issues as well.

With regards to the Garci scandal a few years back, Sison could only say this: “I’m sorry, Mrs. President, but you should’ve stepped down. I believe she had to make the supreme sacrifice and she hasn’t.”

The VFA is also another issue where Ang Kapatiran has been very vocal about. Paredes, having overseen the VFA Commission, said, “It needs immediate and serious reviewing, with the end in view of doing away with provisions that tend to favor our American counterparts (more) than Filipinos.

For Paredes, the most problematic provision is that of custody. “If you compare our VFA with the VFA of Japan and US, the basic difference there is that when an American soldier is accused in a Japanese court, custody automatically resides with the Japanese government. (In the Philippines,) until final completion of the case, it’s with the US.

“We should change that. It’s a matter of negotiating. It’s a matter of diplomacy. It’s a matter of asserting our sovereignty at this point.”

In fact, after the Daniel Smith controversy, Paredes immediately resigned from his position as Executive Director of the VFA Commission.

For Sison, another “black eye on the government” is the prevalence of extra-judicial killings. “That has to stop. And whoever’s behind that should be put in jail for life imprisonment.

“…You mean to say, there are (killings) and the police are not able to catch (the suspects)? Perhaps, they don’t have any facilities on medico-legal, they’re not trained properly. Or is it possible that the persons that they’re catching (are) so powerful, so they’re just too scared to enforce the law?”

He explained further, “That’s why the (New People’s Army) is still very much around. 1969 was a long time ago, when they started the NPA. It’s 2007. We should stop even killing other people who don’t have the same political leanings as we do.” Sison, coincidentally, was the person who suggested the creation of the Commission on Human Rights during the Constitutional Commission of 1986.

“I’ve been a lawyer for 21 years. I have thought of this since I became a lawyer, since I drafted the 1987 Constitution,” he said. For him, there is no reason for Charter Change.

“The reason we’re against the Cha-Cha is this: it is not the form of government that will answer the ills of your country. It is who you get elected. It is the character. We must have character change first before Charter Change. We must have honest, righteous people in the government and that’s why we’re here,” said Sison.

More than their nontraditional political leanings, Ang Kapatiran also sets themselves apart by solid platform on God-centered politics. The party’s founding principle, the Belief in God Almighty, shapes their advocacies in different issues.

On the subject of divorce, Sison laughed and said, “We’re one of the two countries left on Earth that doesn’t have divorce. One is Malta, the other one is the Philippines.”

“Before you enter into a relationship, you have to find out your own personal issues. Am I marriage material? Are we marriage material? Rather than thinking of the cop-out of divorce.

“There are marriages out there of people who were not supposed to get married. In the cases we handle, the most common reason for the annulment is (early marriage) because the woman is pregnant, which is a very unacceptable reason for getting married. We have to go more preventive rather than curative on that ground. Having a divorce is not a certainty that your next relationship with do any better,” said Sison.

As much as Sison is against early pregnancy, he is also against abortion. “I believe from inception, that’s a life. However… as we speak, there are at least 300,000 to 500,000 abortions in the Philippines—even if it’s illegal—because of birth control methods like the IUD. There are some doctors who don’t believe that birth control pills are abortifacients.” Instead, Ang Kapatiran stands for natural family planning.

Furthermore, Sison believes that our overpopulation is exaggerated. “The normal replacement ratio is 2.1. Every couple that has 2.1 children is just replacing him or herself. Since it’s only three or four out of ten have more than three children, I think our birth rate is just right.

“And according to demographers, our population is overstated by 20 million. Why? Because when there were demographers in the last 20 to 30 years, there were politicians who were pressuring them to up the actual population so they can get a bigger share of the IRA, the Internal Revenue Allotment,” said Sison.

For Ang Kapatiran, these are the issues where it’s crucial to reintroduce God-centered politics.

“It’s difficult to put a dividing line between Church affairs and State affairs. Where it is obvious, maybe there should be a separation. Where there is a thin line defining it, maybe, that inviolability between the Church and the State should not be there anymore. In fact, there should be (cooperation), a restrengthening. Make it cooperative,” said Paredes.

“It is time to practice our Christianity,” said Paredes. He continued, “To be a good Christian, we must be proactive in politics… This is the only country we have. We’ve got to make it work.”

Other than Ang Kapatiran’s advocacy of God-centered politics, they also stand for family and community participation to help them bring their ideals to the fore, despite logistical and monetary limitations.

The party recently launched a project called “Alay ng Pamilya sa Paglilinis ng Pulitika (A Family Offering for the Cleansing of Politics).” This program aims to collect small donations from the party’s supporters to finance the campaign run of the three senatorial candidates.

Ang Kapatiran treasurer Peronilla said the party did not want to collect huge amounts of money for campaign funds because it would make the candidates beholden to those contributors. “In our case, we want the people to run our candidates’ campaign. This way, they won’t feel any burden of giving back anything to specific individuals. They can then decide independently for the common good,” Peronilla said in a separate interview. —-Claire Jiao

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