MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte aims to send a message that life goes on despite the coronavirus pandemic when he decided to deliver his penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa, Malacañang said Tuesday.
The 75-year-old Duterte, the oldest to be elected as Philippine president, will push through with plans to physically deliver his 5th SONA before some 50 lawmakers on Monday, his spokesperson Harry Roque said, even as the House of Representatives reported its 18th COVID-19 case.
"Physically, he has said he will go. I think it's also to send a message that we continue to live our lives despite COVID-19," Roque said.
Medical experts have repeatedly warned that COVID-19 may be fatal to the elderly and immunocompromised.
While the Palace is "worried" for Duterte over possible exposure to the virus, Roque said it is part of the chief executive's sworn duty to deliver the SONA, which is traditionally delivered at the legislature.
"Siyempre po, worried dahil senior citizen na ang ating Presidente and he's particularly vulnerable to the disease," Roque said when asked on whether the Palace has concerns about the upcoming SONA.
(Of course, we're worried because our President is already a senior citizen and he's particularly vulnerable to the disease.)
"He may be vulnerable pero patuloy pa rin po ang kaniyang trabaho bilang Presidente at nakasaad sa saligang batas na sa takdang araw ng Hulyo siya ay magre-report sa Kongreso at gagawin po niya 'yan," he said.
(He may be vulnerable but he continues with his work as President and our Constitution says that at the appointed day in July, he has to report to Congress, and he will do that.)
Presidential Security Group (PSG) commander Col. Jesus Durante III said Tuesday stricter health security protocols would be implemented "to ensure a 360-degree shield for the President" given the persisting COVID-19 threat.
"All our security preparations work towards the end goal of a peaceful, successful and a COVID-free SONA 2020 of the President," Durante said in a statement.
Consultations have been conducted with the Department of Health and the government's pandemic task force on how to ensure the health and safety of the President for the SONA as well as those attending, he added.
Under the Constitution, the President must deliver an annual report before Congress every 4th Monday of July in a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate. This year's SONA falls on July 27.