Duterte's 5th SONA 'impossible' to proceed 'as usual' due to COVID-19 crisis: Zubiri

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 04 2020 09:35 PM

Duterte's 5th SONA 'impossible' to proceed 'as usual' due to COVID-19 crisis: Zubiri 1
Several workers disinfect the House of Representatives' session hall, where presidents usually deliver their State of the Nation Address in this photo taken March 13, 2020. Handout photo/file

MANILA - It is "impossible" for President Rodrigo Duterte's 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) scheduled this year to proceed "as usual" as the coronavirus crisis is not expected to end in July, a Senate leader said Monday, noting that the Chief Executive's annual report may be subjected to several "adjustments.''

The President may either deliver his SONA through a televised speech in Malacañang or hold the event at the Batasan Pambansa with guests limited to lawmakers, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri told reporters in an online press conference.

"I do not see the possibility of business as usual sa SONA. Impossible," Zubiri said when asked in Congress is preparing for a "new normal" during the annual event attended by diplomats, and Philippine political and military leaders.

"Kung gagawin nilang parang dati, naku, hawahaan (If they will do it as usual, the virus will likely spread)... All heads of government agencies will be there so pag nagkahawahan, government will be paralyzed," he said.

Under the national government's policy, large gatherings are temporarily prohibited to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Under the law, the both chambers of Congress must convene in a joint session every 4th Monday of July to hear the President's report on the government's plans, achievements, and goals.

Lawmakers will have to study if a constitutional provision will be violated should the President fail to deliver his SONA in the presence of legislators, Zubiri said.

Duterte has extended the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and other parts of the country until May 15, 2020 as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines continue to rise.

Both chambers of Congress have shifted to holding online sessions to protect members and staff from being exposed to the highly-contagious disease that has infected thousands in the Philippines and millions worldwide.

As of May 4, there are at least 9,485 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Of these patients, 623 died, while 1,315 recovered.