Unlike in the past years, President Rodrigo Duterte will have a limited physical audience when he delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA), his 5th and second to the last, on Monday, July 27. (READ: Duterte to deliver SONA amid fear, dissent in pandemic-hit Philippines)
With physical distancing guidelines in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, only 50 officials and lawmakers have been invited to be at the Batasang Pambansa, while the usual guests – the Vice President, lawmakers Cabinet members, diplomats, and local officials – will witness the speech online via Zoom.
The select few who will be physically present in Batasan are Duterte’s allies in Congress and key Cabinet members who have delivered for the administration priority legislations, including two highly controversial ones: the rejection of a new franchise for broadcast giant ABS-CBN and the Anti-Terrorism Law his generals pined for.
A few hours before the 4 pm address, however, Senator Bong Go, who remains a close aide of President Duterte, told reporters that the SONA might be delivered from Malacañang after a number of those invited tested positive for the coronavirus. A decision was supposed to be made by 2 pm.
As of 1:30 pm, however, these were the officials set to witness Duterte’s SONA at the House of Representatives on Monday:
On Sunday, July 26, Vice President Leni Robredo announced she was not invited to attend Duterte’s SONA at the Batasan. It’s the first time the Vice President has not physically been present at the annual address, despite years of a rocky working relationship with Duterte.
District and party-list representatives, House officials
Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel earlier confirmed his attendance, but pulled out after he tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday morning. – with reports from Pia Ranada, Mara Cepeda, JC Gotinga/Rappler.com