Gatchalian: Lawmakers eyeing traditional SONA but with physical distancing, no guests

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2020 06:34 PM

Gatchalian: Lawmakers eyeing traditional SONA but with physical distancing, no guests 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 - Several lawmakers are considering to retain the tradition of having President Rodrigo Duterte deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa, but with lawmakers sitting in the galleries usually intended for guests, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said Friday.

A plan for Duterte's 5th SONA has yet to be finalized, but several lawmakers are eyeing the galleries to ensure that physical distancing will be maintained, Gatchalian told reporters in a virtual briefing.

"Ang mga informal na naririnig ko na usap-usapan is tuloy pa din sa House pero wala nang guests. Senators and congressmen would occupy the gallery para may social distancing," he said.

(Based on the informal talk I heard, the SONA will push through in the House of Representatives but without guests. Senators and congressmen will occupy the gallery so there would be social distancing.)

"As long as you have social distancing puwede naman, as long as si President malayo [sa mga congressmen]," he said.

(As long as you have social distancing it can be done, as long as the President is far from the lawmakers.)

Under the law, 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.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier said that the President's annual SONA may no longer be conducted "as usual" due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Health experts have been cautioning against activities with large congregations as the virus is usually transferred through droplets from the mouth or nose of an infected person.

Another possibility is for Duterte to stay in Malacañang and deliver the SONA through videoconferencing, Zubiri had said.