Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has worn gowns at previous State of the Nation Addresses (Sonas) but Monday’s fashion extravaganza at the Batasang Pambansa has left her disgusted.
She has proposed that lawmakers instead attire themselves more simply and uniformly when they listen to the President address them during the opening session of Congress.
Santiago, a former trial court lawyer, said the law actually frowns on what she called “the obsession to bling” at a time of want and emergency.
She said Article 25 of the Civil Code provides that “thoughtless extravagance in expenses for pleasure or display during a period of acute public want or emergency may be stopped by order of the courts at the instance of any government or private charitable institution.”
“I watched TV and could not stand it. The Sona should be a serious time for the Congress to pick up policy directions indicated by the President. It should not be treated as Oscar night in Hollywood, with a red carpet, where peacocks spread their tails and turn around and around, as coached by media in a feeding frenzy,” Santiago said in a statement.
She said she had decried the past few years the expensive floor-length gowns worn by the women, many created by high-end designers.
“I was once a clueless participant in those mindless events. Don’t get me wrong. I am very proud of our local fabrics and our local designers, some of whom are world-class. But the Sona is not the proper venue for their talents,” Santiago said.
Simple yet smart
She proposed that the lawmakers wear simple yet smart and elegant clothing that would indicate membership in the Senate and House of Representatives to differentiate them from the other guests.
“For the women, it should be a short pencil skirt paired with a simple short-sleeved barong blouse. Jewelry should be a single strand of Philippine pearls,” she said.
“For the men, it should be a plain long-sleeved barong. Both men and women could wear a ceremonial ribbon with the Congress logo. For the gallery, it should be office attire,” she said.
Santiago said that “(most) important of all, the attitude should not be frivolous and giggly. The attitude should be serious and businesslike.”
“The highlight of the Sona is the President. It is not the flashy women. Now the flaky men are even getting into the act. They also parade, sometimes with photogenic arm candy, into the session hall and preen like their female counterparts. Enough!” Santiago said.
She said she would file a resolution prescribing an official uniform for Congress members attending the annual Sona “to prevent a repeat of last Monday’s event where male and female lawmakers took turns displaying bling clothes and jewelry, and acted as endorsers of expensive designers.”
She said the country was suffering from “acute public want because of a high unemployment rate of 7.5 percent and a high underemployment rate of 19.2 percent” and was facing an emergency “because of our territorial disputes with China and Taiwan.”
Santiago was not at the Batasan due to the acute chronic fatigue she suffers from and is on medical leave from the Senate.