Press Release
July 23, 2013


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said she would file a resolution prescribing an official uniform for Congress members attending the annual SONA (State of the Nation Address), to prevent a repeat of last Monday's event where, she said, male and female lawmakers took turns displaying "bling" clothes and jewelry, and acted as endorsers of expensive designers.

Santiago reminded lawmakers that the law frowns on conspicuous consumption which she called "the obsession to bling."

The senator cited the Civil Code, Article 25: "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."

Santiago said that the country is suffering from "acute public want, because of a high unemployment rate of 7.5% and a high underemployment rate of 19.2%."

She added that the country also faces an emergency, because of our territorial disputes with China and Taiwan.

The senator failed to attend the SONA event, because she continues to suffer from acute chronic fatigue and is on medical leave from the Senate.

"I watched TV and could not stand it. The SONA event 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," she said.

Santiago, for the last few years, has decried the expensive floor-length gowns worn by Congress members and even by their spouses, many produced 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 event is not the proper venue for their talents," she said.

Santiago said that clothes should merely indicate membership in the Senate and House of Representatives, to separate them from those who are not members. "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!" she said.

Santiago said that a historian with a sense of duty should act as consultant for SONA and other joint session events in Congress.

"I respectfully nominate Gemma Cruz Araneta. Professionally, she is a brilliant historian, and was the country's first Miss International. She is not a mannequin for a designer. She is just Gemma. In fact, come to think of it, she should be a senator," Santiago said.

Santiago, although a UP corps sponsor for two times, described herself as lacking "any intelligent acquaintance with fashion."

But when pressed for a suggestion on what the uniform should be, she said: "For 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. For 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 added: "Most important of all, the attitude should not be frivolous and giggly. The attitude should be serious and businesslike."

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