You'd think they were celebrities, instead of public servants.
(Courtesy of www.inquirer.net)
An occasion that was supposed to give an accounting of how last year's fiscal policies helped or harmed our national economy turned into a spectacle: shallow, banal, superficial, inconsequential - except for the designers and stylists who were probably more than happy to cater to the whims of our lawmakers to make an unforgettable entrance.
Having lived a stone's throw away from where the Lower House of the Philippine Congress is for almost half my life, I have often wondered if our lawmakers have desensitized themselves to what awaits them every time they enter or leave their place of work: scores and scores of informal settlers, big-bellied children in almost near-nude states and without slippers walking aimlessly or begging, shanties that occupy the islands that separate opposite road traffic - these are the sights, smells and sounds that surround them.
Here is a sampling of the headlines following yesterday's Congressional fashion show:
Maybe I'm wrong in thinking that a report of what the government has done for the past year should be an occasion tempered with austerity and economy. Maybe I have misunderstood what it means to be a public servant: to put the needs of others before yourself. Maybe I have misread the times, one where a cast member of the reality show Jersey Shore known for her enormous breasts and number of catfights she gets into can claim that she's actually written a "book".
It doesn't matter if these clothes that lawmakers emblazoned on themselves while walking on a literal red carpet were paid for out of their own pockets, with earnings from their private endeavors. It's what it symbolizes that is difficult to swallow.
What is the red carpet associated with?
Hollywood. Excess. Glamour. Wealth. Status. Privilege. Star Power.
I see nothing about these words that should ever be connected with public servants. I think the one person who I was most disappointed with was Sen. Pia Cayetano, one of the authors of the RH Law, a measure I actively campaigned for (and have lost friends over) because I fervently believe it to be part and parcel of a whole range of measures that will fight poverty in the long run.
As someone posted over Facebook, there is a "serious disconnect" if one says that s/he is waging a war on poverty, then appears to have spent countless hours and pesos to ensure she would be photographed to death and be the toast of lifestyle pages in print and online media.
It is in the same ballpark on how I feel about society pages in a country such as ours. When we are surrounded by so much poverty and hardship, that most of us cannot eat three meals a day, when just a few days ago, there was much negative commentary on how "squatters have it easy" - a recognition that there are so many people in dire need around us, it boggles my sense of propriety when there are people who can casually parade a bag in the dailies that costs a million pesos and pooh-pooh it as an afterthought purchase.
I don't mind celebrities who make it a priority to appear/be glamorous and be thought of as wealthy. They are paid to make us feel inadequate, envious and to have reason to label this life as unfair.
I mind public servants who do. We all should.