Palace mum on Noy’s SONA theme
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - July 23, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang remained mum on the theme of President Aquino’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on Monday afternoon.

Asked if something special could be expected, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. yesterday said the President would like Filipinos to understand what his government had done in the last five years and what he would do in the remaining days of his term.

Coloma said Aquino would like to report to his bosses, the people, the things that he had done to prove that he had been true to his promises and the priorities of his administration.

He claimed he did not have any details of the SONA yet when asked if the President would cite the challenges faced by the administration alongside the accomplishments.

“It would be best to wait for his speech. All I can say is that in all of his SONAs, he had been truthful to the people,” he said.

As regards the SONA “fashion show” that has been the subject of criticisms, Coloma said: “Maybe our lawmakers and officials are also thinking about and considering the sentiments of the people” when they consider the clothes they will wear to the event.

He stressed though that the Palace is leaving it up to the lawmakers to decide on what to wear for the occasion.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), a workers’ group, yesterday called on legislators and their spouses to wear simple outfits to the SONA.

“First of all, SONA is not a fashion show. Second, working people feel it is illogical and unethical for our lawmakers to parade in the halls of Congress wearing costly, extravagant clothes when millions of their constituents are languishing in hunger and poverty,” TUCP official Gerard Seno said.

Seno stressed the need for lawmakers to lead lives of simplicity and modesty since they are the representatives of the people’s plight and aspiration.

He also said that TUCP thinks a special committee should be formed to set caps on the cost of clothes the lawmakers wear during SONA and during sessions.

“The essence of the gathering (SONA) is not to showcase their brand new and top of the line (outfits). The center of the SONA is the people, the ordinary working people who will listen to the report of the President and validate his direction for the incoming year,” TUCP said.

Also yesterday, the militant Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) criticized the government for an expensive merienda (snacks) for the SONA, saying it highlights inequality during the Aquino administration.

“For lawmakers and VIP guests, the SONA menu for merienda may look ordinary or even cheap. But for a jobless person and for the many families living in subsistence level, a P700-per-plate merienda made of black angus and shrimp rolls, among others, is lavishly alienating and of course, insulting,” PM chairman Renato Magtubo said.

He added that lowly workers can squeeze P700 for a week’s survival or use it to cover electricity bills.

But House Secretary General Marilyn Barua-Yap said the chamber actually scrimped on its P2.2-million budget for the event, which will also coincide with the opening of the third and final regular session, without diminishing its historical significance.

“We tightened some expenses but we don’t want to compromise the quality of the program, this is the last and we will make it special, just like the other SONAs,” Yap told reporters.

Amid criticisms, Yap said they do not want to exceed last year’s budget of P2.3 million.

There will be a hot buffet composed of black Angus beef with soft rolls with caper mayonnaise at the carving station; bacon-wrapped chicken rolls; chicken barbecue kebabs; eastern shrimp rolls with sweet chili sauce; bread sticks with four-cheese artichoke dip; pasta carbonara; and puttanesca pasta. – With Paolo Romero, Mayen Jaymalin, Ding Cervantes, Non Alquitran, Cecilia Suerte Felipe, Mike Frialde

ACIRC ALL I AQUINO BATASANG PAMBANSA BUT HOUSE SECRETARY GENERAL MARILYN BARUA-YAP CECILIA SUERTE FELIPE COLOMA DING CERVANTES GERARD SENO QUOT SONA
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