Makabayan bloc to flout Sona ban on ‘protest’ fashion

Makabayan bloc to flout Sona ban on ‘protest’ fashion

MANILA, Philippines — An opposition lawmaker on Wednesday took issue with a directive from the House of Representatives banning “protest attires” inside the Batasang Pambansa complex when President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. delivers his third State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 22.

That’s a violation of the right to freedom of expression, said ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, who is also the House deputy minority leader.

Castro said she and the rest of the Makabayan bloc would still be flouting the restriction and put on something that “would depict the real concerns of the public” that the President must address in his speech.

READ: Sona outfits with derogatory words, political messages banned – House

The bloc, which has gained a foothold in Congress for allied militant groups in the labor, peasant, fisherfolk, women and youth sectors, also includes Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas and Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel. These groups, which included Bayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno and Pamalakaya, among others, traditionally hold one of their biggest rallies of the year during the Sona on the main Quezon City road leading to Batasan.

Castro was reacting to an announcement by House Secretary General Reginald Velasco that the chamber “would be very strict [against] the expression of protest in a Sona outfit.”

Not the right time

Specifically, Velasco said, the state event would be banning outfits that convey antigovernment slogans or imagery since “the [Sona is] not the time and place to express protests.”

These include outfits with caricatured faces or statements critical of government initiatives, like the jeepney modernization program, he said.

“Anything derogatory to a personality or persons of authority, bawal ’yon (that’s not allowed),” Velasco said.

“We will be polite in asking [dress code violators] to change clothes,” he said, adding they will not be allowed to enter the plenary hall if they don’t comply.

Budget clarified

In previous Sonas, opposition lawmakers like Brosas expressed or promoted their advocacies through fashion—without being policed. As a women’s rights advocate, for example, she once wore a bright red Filipiniana attire with some embroidery work that read: “Stop the attacks (on women).”

Also on Wednesday, Velasco sought to clarify reports that the House of Representatives had spent P20 million just for the food to be served during the Sona reception for VIPs.

He said the amount represented the total budget earmarked for the overall preparations for the annual event.

“This figure is an estimate and has not yet been fully expended. The budget covers a range of essential expenses to ensure the event’s success, beginning from March 12, 2024, when the Sona Task Force was created,” he added.

The P20 million, he said, covered food and beverage for all the staff and external personnel like the police, traffic enforcers and support staff from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority; uniforms for the House Secretariat; security expenses; items used during the interagency coordination meetings; invitations and giveaways; equipment rental; decor and other incidentals.

“Every peso allocated for the Sona is carefully scrutinized and managed to reflect the significance of this constitutionally mandated event, while being conscious of public sentiments regarding the use of [taxpayer] money,” he added.

  • https://www.msn.com/en-ph/news/other/makabayan-bloc-to-flout-sona-ban-on-protest-fashion/ar-BB1pLk0w?ocid=00000000

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