President Rodrigo Duterte as he delivers his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) in July last year.

MANILA – Malacañang is “cooking up” a different format for President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a virtual presser on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he could not yet tell whether Duterte would physically show up at the usual SONA venue, the Session Hall of the House of Representatives, or deliver a virtual SONA while staying in the Palace.

“Di ko pa po sigurado if the President will physically go or will address it online pero meron pa po kaming mga plano na hinahanda (I am still not sure if the President would physically go or make his address online but we are planning something),” Roque said.

He declined to go into details, saying their preparations would be a “surprise”.

“Baka naman surpresahan namin kayo diyan (We just might surprise you). We have in the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson cooking up something,” Roque said.

He, however, noted that only a limited number of guests would be physically present in the Session Hall.

“I can confirm it will not be the same SONA that we are used to,” Roque said.

Aside from fewer guests, he said, dressing up would also be forgone.

“Siyempre po, wala na yung mga madaming mga opisyales na nag-a-attend, wala na yung fashion show na pagandahan ng suot at tingin ko po, kakaunti lang ang mag-a-assemble sa Kongreso. (Of course, there would no longer be many officials attending, there would no longer be a fashion show, and I think only a few would be allowed to assemble at the Congress),” he said.

Last month, Roque floated the possibility of having a “blended” style SONA, referring to a combination of having guests physically present while others opting to watch from their television sets or online.

“That’s being discussed. I think kung meron tayong (if we have) blended learning, we will also have a blended SONA,” he said in a virtual presser.

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

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano disclosed that the SONA would likely be conducted via teleconferencing, which has been the method used by Congress to hold sessions and committee hearings.

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

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

From 1935 to 2015, the SONA was also held at 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 Malacañan Palace.

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

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. (PNA)