A New Set for The President: No audience at Batasan for Duterte’s SONA

President Rodrigo Duterte

Senate President Vicente Sotto III stated that for the first time, President Duterte’s will deliver his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at Batasang Pambansa with a small number of lawmakers and an empty gallery in an attempt to shield him from coronavirus infection.

Yet presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. made it clear that there is still no guarantee if the chief executive will physically go to the Batasan to deliver the SONA, or whether he will only do it through Malacañang ‘s video telecast. Sotto said that he was expecting the President to remind the nation of the country’s specific condition, which was battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said that the SONA will most likely be a “blended” arrangement where a small number of guests would be permitted in the session hall while the majority of the lawmakers would participate via online teleconferencing. Sotto said he wants the President Duterte’s to have confirmed details on the pandemic and not a “flattened curve” report in obvious reference to the later retracted pronouncement of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

He clarified that the number of those physically present at the premises will be limited to a maximum of 50 persons, all of whom will be subjected to COVID-19 rapid checking, will be required to wear a mask, and must pass the temperature check before being permitted to enter the premises of Batasang Pambansa.

The Executive Department would have twenty-five seats, including members of the Cabinet, 13 for members of the House of Representatives under Speaker Cayetano, and 12 for the Senate. Nevertheless, Sotto noted that security officers as well as House and Senate personnel are already included in the 50 men.

Of the 12 Senate seats, only eight will be physically available, including Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Christopher Go, Ronald de la Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Francis Tolentino, and Pia Cayetano. Congress, which was on a break, will resume its second regular session on 27 July to be accompanied by the SONA of the President.

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