MANILA – House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Friday said the fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte would likely be conducted via teleconferencing, which has been the method used by Congress to hold sessions and committee hearings.

In an interview, Cayetano said the “blended” style SONA would be similar to the teleconference-type sessions done by the House, wherein a limited number of guests would be physically present in Batasan while others attend through a teleconferencing app.

“When we say blended, ‘yung iba nasa location, ‘yung iba hindi (some are at the location, while others are not). So it really depends on the situation,” he said.

Cayetano said such adjustments must be made in the conduct of the 5th SONA amid the pandemic, noting that no vaccine has been developed to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infection.

“But the worst thing that can happen is kung ganito pa rin ang sitwasyon at walang immunization, walang vaccine, pupunuin namin ang Batasan tapos magkaka-outbreak dahil nandoon kaming lahat (if the [Covid-19] situation still prevails with no immunization, no vaccine, then we fill up Batasan and an outbreak occurs because we were all there),” he said.

“So, safety will be the (priority) of the day but we will make sure that the President’s speech will be communicated nationwide.”

Duterte delivered his past four SONAs in the Session Hall of the House of Representatives at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.

However, it remains to be seen whether he will show up at the usual venue or opt to deliver his SONA somewhere else.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said there was a suggestion for the President to deliver his next SONA at Malacañan on July 27.

From 1935 to 2015, the other SONA venues were the Legislative Building in Manila (destroyed during the Second World War); the temporary Congress Building along Lepanto Street in Manila; and Maharlika Hall (now Kalayaan Hall) in Malacañang Palace.

Other SONA venues were the Quirino Grandstand, Philippine International Convention Center, and the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, US.

It remains to be seen whether pre-SONA forums would be held to discuss the administration’s achievements.

The SONA is delivered by the President of the Philippines every year to report the state of the country, unveil the government’s agenda for the coming year, and may also propose to Congress certain legislative measures.

The SONA is a constitutional obligation, required by Article VII, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution: “(T)he President shall address the Congress at the opening of its regular session.”

Article VI, Section 15 also prescribes that the Congress “shall convene once every year on the fourth Monday of July for its regular session.” (PNA)