• The ‘bling ‘ thing: Sen. Santiago’s welcome rage

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    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    Marlen V. Ronquillo

    Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago knows precisely when to thrust her dagger into the heart of decadence. It takes one with a sense of political and cultural theater to have this perfect timing , and , clearly , Senator Santiago has this in a superb way. As July 22’s SONA morphed into a cheap version of the Oscars, the senator decried the “ bling” that have possessed and obsessed legislators—and robbed the somber tradition out of the president’s state of the nation address.

    Gaudiness in full regalia cheapened one of the nation’s most serious and solemn political rites, she observed.

    If you think that only people like myself who do not know what fun is all about cheered Senator Santiago on the “ bling” issue, you are dead wrong . The call of Senator Santiago, anathema though it was to the bling- obsessed and fashioned-obsessed in the country, got a real audience . And deeply resonated.

    We all know why. The disconnect between the Oscar-like parades at the SONA and the grim realities of a country with so many inequities is too raw a nerve to be dusted over by haute couture. And in a well-articulated, well-phrased reminder, Senator Santiago laid bare the rawest nerve of an unequal nation.

    The main audience of the senator was a group of people like myself who revolted over the over-the-top display of bling and decadence. And who regularly throw up as the “ darlings” of Maurice Arcache parade their ostentatiousness— their blings—in the fashion and society pages of newspapers. Competing Hermes and Channel bags amid so much poverty and squalor? Let us all behead the modern-day Marie Antoinettes.

    Congress is not Hollywood, Man. And the senator said it best.

    “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 an 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 .”

    Pause for a moment and look at the quality of the articulation, the perfect phrasing and the verbiage. Especially the substance. The SONA indicates serious guideposts, she said, perhaps the most serious guideposts on the directions of public policy. And Congress should take it from there, give flesh to the grand and ambitious ideas that would best serve the nation.

    And instead of seriousness, what we saw on full display on July 22, said the senator, were “flashy women and flaky men.”

    Bingo.

    Were these deftly phrased words against the “bling,” spoken by any other legislator, the probability was that they would sound stilted and unnatural. Or they would end up sounding as written by a ghost writer .

    With the case of Senator Santiago, it was all natural. There was even a coup de grace, the invocation of a legal basis for her rage. Under the Civil Code, she reminded her fellow legislators, “thoughtless extravagance during a period of acute public want or emergency may be stopped by the courts.”

    Stop the “bling”—it turns out, is not just a lonely crusade. It is the perfect cause for a mutatis mutandis (with apologies to Orwell for using this ghastly phrase). And with basis under the Civil Code at that.

    While we are not in a state of “acute public want or emergency,” there should be policy focus on the most serious problem in the country right now—the widening gap between the rich and the poor , the ever widening chasm that is leading to the annihilation of a middle class .

    We can’t mindlessly march to a point in which the top 10 percent owns 90 percent of the country and sucks up that percentage of the yearly national income. Right now, we are crossing that dangerous threshold and Congress, instead of focusing on “bling”, has to craft the policies that would ease the divide.

    It could be a combination of strong anti-trust laws or legislation with marked emphasis on redistribution. It could mean legislation that would scrap the present system of determining wage increases in favor of a legislation floor wage, applicable across the country.

    It would even mean restoring the bargaining power of the dying and atrophying labor unions.

    It could mean recasting investments programs such as the PPP to allow the entry of small players into the biggest public-private initiated infrastructure projects. The PPP can’t be about empowering the top 1 per cent .

    It could mean legislative action of policies that focus on raising the per capital income, which also means ending the obsession with the idea that the nation’s economic health is based on GDP growth, not on the economic power of its citizens .

    It could mean anything. Just not obsession with the “ bling “ and the other superficialities of our still-struggling nation.

    One last note. The “ uniform” thing was where many people with a sense of country differed with Senator Santiago. The ladies should do a Michelle Obama and find gowns and attire that do not cost a fortune and could be worn in many other formal functions .

    They should try hard for fashion sense with a Divisoria budget and no one would complain.

    Uniforms remind us of the Pyongyang and the three generation Kims and the drab uniforms of those who cheer them to high heavens. We are a culturally diverse and vibrant nation, and we should not adopt uniforms.

    mvronq@yahoo.com

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