Palace still unsure if Duterte will deliver SONA physically at Batasang Pambansa
MANILA (UPDATE)-- President Rodrigo Duterte will physically deliver his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on July 27, Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III said Thursday.
Duterte, 75, rejected an earlier proposal to deliver his SONA via videoconferencing from Malacañang marking the new normal in the Philippines' largest political gathering to protect him from possible exposure to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Sotto said.
"Baka ayaw niya masabi na nag-cower ang gobyerno sa pandemic," the Senate leader said of Duterte in an online press briefing.
(Maybe he doesn't want the people to say that the government cowered to the pandemic.)
"I agree with that decision because we must give the country and the public and the people a semblance that your government is up and about and ready to continue with its job," Sotto added.
But Duterte's spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday he has yet to receive a confirmation on whether the President would go to Batasang Pambansa to deliver his SONA.
"Hindi pa po 100 percent sure kung physically mag-aattend ang Presidente or magbo-broadcast from Malago [Clubhouse in Malacañang] to Congress," Roque said during a Palace press briefing.
(It is not 100 percent sure yet whether the President would physically attend or if there will just be a broadcast to Congress.)
Under the new SONA setup, the number of attendees will be limited to 50, including the President's entourage, lawmakers and staff members, Sotto said.
Of the 50 people who will physically attend the SONA, 25 will come from the executive branch, 13 from the House of Representatives and 12 from the Senate.
Security and secretariat staff will be included in the headcount, Sotto said.
The 8 senators who will physically attend the SONA are:
- Senate President Vicente Sotto III
- Senate Majority Leader Juan MIguel Zubiri
- Sen. Pia Cayetano
- Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa
- Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
- Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go
- Sen. Panfilo Lacson
- Sen. Francis Tolentino
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who has comorbidities and is relying on a pacemaker, gave up his slot for other senators who are allowed to leave their homes under the community quarantine policy, Sotto said.
All those who will go to the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City will be subjected to temperature checks and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) rapid testing, he said.
"Hindi kami magkakalapit-lapit doon for sure. Naka-mask lahat yun," he said.
(For sure, we will not be sitting close to each other. All of the attendees will wear masks.)
"Sa laki ng Batasan, isipin mo, 50 lang ang tao. So very safe 'yung health protocols," he added.
(With the size of Batasan, there will only be 50 people so the health protocols are very safe.)
In the Senate, select media may be allowed to cover the opening of the second regular session from the gallery, but ambush interviews will be prohibited, the Senate President said.
"Even if you are 6 feet away from interviewee, kayo (media) mag didikit-dikit e. Baka masisi pa kami," he said.
(Even if you are 6 feet away from the interviewee, the media may still have to stand close to each other. We might be blamed for it.)
Senators who will not physically attend the SONA may watch it either in the Senate plenary hall, their homes, or offices, Sotto said.
"Physically, we expect it to be a very different type of SONA because of the situation we are in now," he said.
"But I'd like to find out the exact state of the nation... more importantly, the state of our nation during the pandemic."
"Hindi magbibitaw diyan ang Presidente ng figures na hindi verified," Sotto said.
(The President will not say unverified figures in the SONA.)
-with a report from Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News