There is a new organisation in town that is drawing the attention of the Fil-Aus community.  This is  1Sambayan Australia which was formally launched on May 29, 2021 at the Mt Druitt Hub, Mount Druitt. The organisation's FB page states: "1Sambayan is a broad alliance of patriotic and democracy-loving Filipinos from all political persuasions.  Its aim is to unify the opposition to the current government by ensuring that only one candidate will run for the president and the national positions for vice president and the Senate will run under one slate."

From the sound of it, the organisation is not another social club but a group determined to make a difference in the upcoming national election in the Philippines. Underpinning and heading the courageous mission are dedicated and well-qualified officials at its head office - retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio, retired Ombudsman and Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales and Attorney Howard Calleja, election lawyer and founder of 1Sambayan.

In our home turf in New South Wales, the Public and Legal Officer of 1Sambayan is 64-year-old Attorney Chona Davidson of Earlwood. In our home turf in New South Wales, the Public and Legal Officer of 1Sambayan is 64-year-old Attorney Chona Davidson of Earlwood. Chona finished Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila, and an extension Legal Practitioners Admission Board course from the University of Sydney.

The Australian Filipina is glad to share Chona's responses to a few questions to gain an insight into her persona and views on some recent legal matters.

*What were the challenging and enjoyable parts of being a lawyer in Australia?

Establishing a career in Australia is a big challenge. I endured a different education system, racism, and a difficult cultural adjustment in my everyday life. I have been in Australia for 31 years now and the mystery of living in a different culture has vanished. I worked for the government for over 25 years, both in State (NSW) and Federal (Australia) in different capacities ranging from clerk grade 1 to being a lawyer.

My experience in court appearances, conducting training and work with the community is what I value most.

I also love being in a Filipino folk dance group, the Marilag Dance Company, because it is the lightest as well as the most enjoyable expression of my true being _ a Filipina.

*At what age did you realise your passion to become a lawyer?  are there other lawyers in the family? 

I first fantasise about becoming a lawyer when I was only 13 years old. I was very exposed to politics as my Dad was both a public servant and a politician. I read all the papers, magazines and the political materials he brought home. My mum was a teacher and she also left many books, and magazines which I diligently skimmed through as a child. I loved reading and writing at a very young age.

I and my siblings were very well trained with household, farm and business management. We grew up with responsibilities assigned to each of us despite the presence of household helpers. Everytime I had the chance, I cozied up behind the sofa or under the table to read.

During school holidays, I stayed in my grandmother’s house in Batangas. My uncle was a lawyer and I intently observed him conducting his own practice from home. I would discreetly shelter behind the door of his office and listened to him interviewed his clients and rehearsed presenting his legal arguments.

*Who do you look up to as inspiring lawyer?

I have high regard for human rights lawyers. I believe that lawyering must not only  practice of a legal business or profession, but first and foremost, an advocacy for social justice and human rights. 

*What else do you wish to achieve in life?

I wish that my country, the Philippines will become a top and globally competitive economy, with an honest and respected government that cares for its people, and a stable democracy.

My personal wish is a stable and bright future for my children.

*What do you aim to achieve in your role as the Public and Legal Officer of 1Sambayan?

My goal is to be able to guide the campaign of ISambayan towards unifying all the people and organisations from different political persuasions to participate in the process of installing an honest, trustworthy and patriotic government in the Philippines.

*Just on Law side of things.  we have seen two cases where the conviction were overturned due to "technicality" eg case of Cardinal Pell and Bing Crosby.what is your view on these?

The law may be harsh but it is still the law (dura lex sed lex). My heart aches for the victims though. There should be reparations by way of civil damages and other assistance for the persons wronged.

*On a case in the Fil-Aus communty, what is your overall comment on the recent sentencing of the McAleer case?

The sentence on the McAleer case is still appealable. Until this is done and the case is completely closed, I cannot comment.

*What is your advice to those who like to become a lawyer but might be hesitating?

Becoming a lawyer is not a stepping stone to wealth; if this is your main goal, better hesitate.

*Latly, how do you define "success".

Success is when you are surrounded by peace, equity and justice.

ABOUT CHONA DAVIDSON

Born as Chona Encarnacion Castillo in Occidental Mindoro, Chona was third of four children of parents who hailed from Batangas.  She spent her childhood in both Mindoro and Batangas. She has three full siblings, and many half siblings as her mother passed away when she was only 2 years.   Since then her father had two partners and three more children each. This did not affect her as much because her mother left enough inheritance for her and her three siblings to get through to college. She finished Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila.

She worked in the International Corporate Bank (Interbank-‘Ibalik ang swerti’) in its head office in Paseo de Roxas, Makati for 13 years. She was not a conventional type of employee, so she transcended as a union executive rather than a banker. Her first practice of Law was as a Legal Officer for a national trade union federation in the Philippines. She represented the trade unions in labor arbitrations, enterprise agreement negotiations;  taught Labor Law in seminars and participated in many international delegations and conferences on behalf of the trade union movement in the Philippines. She considers working for the trade unions as a challenging yet fulfilling part of her calling.

She married an Australian academic and former trade union leader, Dr Peter Davidson. They have three children.

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