SONA. President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the House of Representatives in Quezon City on July 22, 2019. Malacañang announced on Monday (July 20, 2020) that Duterte will be physically present at the Batasang Pambansa for his 5th SONA on July 27, 2020. (Presidential file photo)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte will be “physically present” at the Batasang Pambansa Complex to deliver his fifth state of the nation address (SONA) on July 27, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte has decided to show up while allowing only a limited number of 50 guests in the venue.

“The President will be physically present in Batasan pagdating po ng (for his) SONA,” he said in a virtual Palace briefing. “He has confirmed that he will attend unless there are supervening events.”

Roque said a schedule has been set for rehearsals but did not mention the date.

Last week, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said the number of attendees will be limited to a maximum of 50 people who will all be subjected to rapid antibody testing.

He said 25 seats will be reserved for the executive department, 13 for the House of Representatives and 12 for the Senate.

According to Roque, Duterte’s 5th SONA will focus on the national government’s response to the prevailing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

“I think it will be obvious that he will be talking about Covid-19, impact on the country, and steps taken to deal with Covid-19,” he said.

Roque said Duterte will also talk about his priorities for his remaining two years in office.

Virtual protests

To minimize the spread of Covid-19, Roque urged groups and individuals planning to stage protests to take their assemblies online.

“Ang pagtitipon-tipon po ay magreresulta sa mas mabilis na pagkalat ng sakit na ito. Puwede naman po magprotesta rin online (Gatherings could result to the faster spread of this disease. They can hold protests online),” he said.

Batasang Pambansa is located in Quezon City, which forms part of Metro Manila.

Metro Manila is currently under general community quarantine (GCQ). Under quarantine guidelines, mass gatherings with attendance of up to 10 percent of a venue’s capacity will be allowed.

Last week, Quezon City issued a memorandum that allows the arrest of persons caught violating health-related ordinances following a spike in Covid-19 cases in the city.

“Ito naman po ay para sa kalusugan ng lahat. Merong ordinansya at may katungkulan po ang mga kapulisan na ipatupad and ordinansang ito (This is for the health of everyone. There is an ordinance and the police have the duty to implement it),” Roque said.

Previously, Roque urged rallyists to hold online protests on Labor Day (May 1) and Independence Day (June 12) but this did not stop them from taking it to the streets.

Unedited speeches

Following the call made by media groups for the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) to air unedited versions of Duterte’s public addresses, Roque reiterated that he was unaware that the July 13 speech in Jolo, Sulu was edited.

He explained that if there were any omissions done in the speeches, Duterte himself would call the attention of the PCOO.

“Kung meron naman pong magrereklamo siguro kung siya ay na-censor, ang Presidente po mismo so iiwan nalang po natin diyan ‘yan (If there is someone who would complain about the speeches being censored, it would be the President himself so let’s leave it there),” he said.

Earlier, he vowed to join the future activities of Duterte so as not to miss the key points the President might raise.

He also assured that there is no policy to edit Duterte’s speech delivered in any of the latter’s scheduled activities before it can be aired on television. (PNA)