The House of Representatives will implement stricter security measures in Batasang Pambansa for President Duterte's second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24, officials said Wednesday.
House Secretary-General Cesar Pareja, Deputy Secretary-General Artemio Adasa and Sergeant-At-Arms Roland Detabali briefed the media after a coordination meeting and walkthrough of the plenary.
Detabali said they are preparing for all threats: terrorists, criminal syndicates, and protesters. He said Quezon City Police District will deploy 6,000 policemen for SONA.
"Anything can happen, kahit maliliit na grupo they can still create havoc kung gusto nila. [During] the last SONA, the protesters behaved, the leaders of the protesting groups were given by the President an opportunity to meet [him] personally so they can air their concerns,” he said.
He added that protesters will be allowed 200 meters away from the Batasan gate.
Asked specifically if there is a threat, Detabali said, "Definitely meron pero not serious, panggulo lang. Because security and [the Presidential Security Group] within the complex [is] very tight 3 days before the SONA. Nakasarado na ang Congress.”
Detabali said canine units from Congress, military and police will be deployed.
Pareja said they are bracing for the usual problems like traffic management and security.
"The usual problems of course, though we didn’t experience much of this. Iyung nagrarally sa labas medyo toned down last year but right now we have to prepare,” he said.
Pareja said they will not use barbed wires and container vans to block protesters.
"That's been the policy ni President Duterte ayaw niya nakakdistrupt na traffic just because my activity yung paglagay ng concrete barriers di niya pa gusto yun," he said.
Pareja said the House will publish the traffic rerouting plan a week before the SONA.
Adasa said two new parking buildings currently being constructed will be ready for use during SONA.
He added that not everybody will be allowed to park inside the premises but there will be other designated areas in the vicinity.
Pareja said the dress code is still business attire and barong for the men and Filipiniana or business attire for women. Evening gowns are still discouraged.
"This is still a working day, syempre iyung isusuot naman nila presentable. It could be Filipinana, maiwasan [lang sana] iyung long gown Filipiniana,” he said.
Pareja said the House will still roll out a red carpet despite the dress code.
"Even if its a working day, we do that to give due importance to the event,” he said.
Adasa said the President is expected to arrive by land or air around 2:30 p.m.
Guests will be expected as early as 1 p.m. but the session hall will be opened at 2 p.m. after it's cleared by security.
On the morning of July 24, the House is expected to open its second regular session, which will be closed by 3:30 p.m.
The President’s speech will start at exactly 4 p.m. Those inside the session hall won’t be allowed to leave until the president is out of the session hall.
After the SONA, invited guests will be treated to a reception at the South Wing to allow a reunion of government officials.
Adasa said the matter of extending the martial law declaration in Mindanao is not on the agenda during the Joint Session.
He said it can be discussed in the morning session of the Lower House. The current martial law in Mindanao is expected to lapse on July 22.
"Wala, isang agenda lang iyan. Wala, there's no such discussion. They could probably discuss that in the morning separately if ever they have some business to be tackled on this particular point they can do that the following day,” he said.