MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte will likely deliver his 5th State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa with only 50 individuals - including lawmakers and staffers - physically present in the usually packed chamber, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Thursday.
The plan to limit guests to 50 people has yet to be finalized but the President wants to give his annual speech in the SONA's traditional venue despite the remaining COVID-19 threat, Zubiri told reporters in an online press conference.
"It will be a skeletal crew of senators and congressmen listening to the president... to protect the president and congressmen from the transmission of the virus," he said.
The Senate and the House of Representatives were each given about 12 to 13 slots, while the remaining headcount would be reserved for Duterte's delegation, security and technical staff, he said.
Only 8 senators and 5 members of the Senate Secretariat will be physically present in the Batasang Pambansa, while the rest of the Senate can watch the SONA either in the Senate session hall or via videoconference, the Majority Leader said.
So far, the senators who will physically watch the President's annual address in the Batasang Pambansa are:
- Senate President Vicente Sotto III
- Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri
- Sen. Pia Cayetano
- Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa
- Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
- Sen. Panfilo Lacson
- Sen. Francis Tolentino
Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, who was Duterte's close aide before becoming a lawmaker, will "definitely" attend, but may be included in the President's delegation, Zubiri said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who has been relying on a pacemaker due to several health issues, "is not attending physically," Sotto told reporters in a text message.
Palace officials have prepared 2 other options for the President's 5th SONA, including a plan where Duterte delivers his speech in Malacañang to limit his possible exposure to COVID-19.
Lawmakers earlier said that the final SONA plans would be announced on July 15.