Business attire prescribed for lawmakers in SONA

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No more red carpet, no more flashy apparel.

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Starting this year, the State of the Nation Address (SONA) will be strictly a business affair, not a fashion show.

This was the directive given by President Rodrigo Duterte’s choice for the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, for the SONA on July 25, lawmakers said.

“The [next]Speaker informed us that we should come simple and wear business attire, meaning clothes that we use in going to work everyday. And since we will be coming in business attire, there is no need for a red carpet anymore,” Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe told reporters on Friday.

“For the men, barong will do. For women, it could be a short Filipiniana. They can even wear slacks, paired with a Filipiniana top,” Batocabe said.

The SONA, held at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City every fourth Monday of July, had become the biggest red-carpet event in the country, gathering the most powerful figures not only in politics and government but also in show business.

But the annual event has been criticized for practically turning into a fashion show, and for overshadowing what is supposed to be the constitutionally mandated President’s annual report to the nation.

This year’s SONA will be the first for Duterte, who has expressed his distaste for formality and glitter.

“The SONA is not like the movie premieres or being in the Oscars or Cannes [film festival]. It is about the President and our country, with the President giving Congress the instructions [on]what policies we should pursue,” Batocabe said.

He, however, clarified that Alvarez’s directive to wear business attire was not mandatory.

“If they don’t want to dress simply, then we respect that. But I encourage them to follow the lead of our President and the incoming Speaker,” Batocabe said.

His sentiments were shared by his colleagues from different political affiliations.

For Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, dressing in simple clothes during the SONA will send a strong message to citizens that their representatives are in Congress not for the glamor, but to work on policies that benefit them.

“I am in favor of a no-glamorous SONA. Wearing expensive clothes when poverty is everywhere would be insensitive. SONA is a workday and listening to the report of the President should be business-like and professional, not turned into an entertainment,” Tugna told The Manila Times.

“Those who are gorgeous and beautiful will stand out, even if they only wear simple clothes,” he said.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone of the Liberal Party agreed, arguing that public service was not about being the best dressed.

“I have no problem with that. Simplicity and sincerity should be stressed upon in public service. The important thing here is the message [of the President], not the outfit. I myself have been recycling my barong tagalog and black pants for several SONAs,” Evardone said in a text message.

For Navotas City (Metro Manila) Rep. Tobias Tiangco of the United Nationalist Alliance, “SONA is a business function, not a gala.”

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