SONA not a fashion show, dress code changed to business attire

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(File photos) 2015 SONA: Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero and his wife Heart Evangelista (left), former President Benigno Aquino III's younger sister Kris Aquino (middle), congressional couple Diwa party list Rep. Emeline Aglipay and Las Pinas Rep. Mark Villar (right)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The traditional grand red carpet fashion show by members of Congress and their spouses attending the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) will be discarded to shift focus from ostentatious appearance to substantive governance.

Incoming Finance Department spokesperson Paola Alvarez on Monday said the dress code for President Rodrigo Duterte’s upcoming SONA will be simple “business attire.”

“We will downplay the event. It will not be a fashion show,” Alvarez said. “We want to center on what the President's message is to our people, especially it's his First State of the Nation Address.”

Alvarez, who is helping in the preparations for the SONA on July 25th said this will be the case in Duterte’s succeeding SONAs.

Female guests are advised not to wear long gowns. Though they will be allowed to wear Filipiniana attire, Alvarez said it should “not be more than knee length.”

Alvarez said the number of legislators comprising the Congressional entourage that will welcome the President and lead him into the session hall also will smaller than in previous SONAs.

“So instead of having a lot of congressmen there, we will be minimizing this to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House and afterward we will have the majority floor leader of both Houses to escort the President,” she said.

Asked what Filipinos may expect to hear from the President, Alvarez said there won’t be any “blaming game.”

According to Alvarez, the SONA will focus on the administration’s 10-point economic agenda and will also tackle more detailed plans regarding promises Duterte made during the election campaign.

Duterte’s legislative agenda is expected to include the restoration of the death penalty for heinous crimes, a measure that will push for federalism and comprehensive tax reform.

It’s not clear, however, if the President’s promise to double the salary of policemen and the military will be raised.

“If it is not within this budget, then it will be on the second budget,” he said. “The issue there is that we have to pay first the pension of the soldiers and the other personnel ng [of] AFP.”

The rites and other activities related to Duterte’s first SONA will be directed by award-winning Brillante Mendoza who has offered his services for free.