MANILA – Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar on Friday revealed there was an alternative plan to deliver President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA) at Malacañan Palace on July 27.
Andanar said Duterte might deliver his SONA at Malacañan in Manila instead of having it delivered at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City, in case one of those invited to attend the annual event tests positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
“Kung meron mang positibo sa mga na-swab na panauhin ay magde-desisyon ang Office of the President, kasama ang PSG (Presidential Security Group), kung doon tayo sa Option B (If one of the guests tests positive [for Covid-19], the Office of the President and PSG will proceed with Option B) which will be done dito sa (at) Malacañan,” Andanar said in an interview with dzRH.
Malacañang earlier announced that Duterte had decided to fulfill his constitutional mandate to deliver his fifth SONA on July 27 at the Batasang Pambansa.
Under Article 7, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution, the President is mandated to “address the Congress at the opening of its regular session” since the SONA is considered as a constitutional obligation.
While the plans for this year’s SONA remain “very fluid” due to Covid-19 pandemic, Andanar said Duterte’s health cannot be compromised.
Thus, the venue for Duterte’s penultimate SONA will depend on the results of the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests of the attendees, Andanar said.
“Bago po mangyari ang SONA ay magkakaroon po ng swabbing na mangyayari. At sa swabbing nga na ito, diyan natin malalaman kung itutuloy ba ‘yung sa lower house (Before SONA, guests will have to undergo swab tests. Results of the swab tests will determine whether the venue will be at lower house [or the Batasang Pambansa]),” Andanar said.
On Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte and his guests will undergo RT-PCR tests on July 26, a day before the annual SONA.
Andanar, however, said the RT-PCR tests can also be done on July 27, or the day Duterte delivers his SONA.
“Lahat kailangang i-swab (All must undergo swab tests). It will be done on the day itself kasi merong swabbing na minutes lang, malalaman mo na (because you will get the results of the swab tests in just a matter of minutes),” he said.
Andanar said a total of 50 seats are reserved for Cabinet members and lawmakers if Duterte delivers his SONA at the Batasang Pambansa.
In the event that the annual event is held at Malacañan, the total number of guests would further be trimmed down, he added.
“Of course, nandiyan pa rin yung Senate President, Speaker of the House, tapos ang Executive Secretary at piling mga congressmen at mga senador na lamang (If it is held at Malacañan, only a few can attend. The Senate President, House Speaker, the Executive Secretary, and select congressmen and senators can only attend),” he said.
Malacañang has yet to confirm the attendance of Duterte’s family to the annual SONA.
On Wednesday, presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte said she will skip her father’s fifth SONA to avoid strict health procedures.
‘No regular’ SONA
Andanar said Duterte’s penultimate SONA is not ordinary since it will be delivered at the time the country is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This concerns everybody, the entire country. This is no regular State of the Nation Address. This is one of the most important State of the Nation Addresses that we will have,” he said.
The public, he said, can expect Duterte to touch on his promises to stop corruption in government, combat illegal drugs, and reduce poverty in the country.
He added that Duterte would also talk about his government’s plan to generate more jobs, revive the economy, foster education, and help distressed overseas Filipino workers amid the pandemic.
“‘Yung sasabihin ni Presidente sa darating na State of the Nation Address ay yung mga talagang piling-piling mahahalaga at yung mga gustong malaman ng ating mga kababayan (The President’s SONA will focus on important matters that our fellow countrymen want to know),” Andanar said.
He said Duterte would have a rehearsal either on Friday night or on Saturday.
He could not say how long Duterte’s fifth SONA will last since he has yet to read the speech.
Duterte’s first SONA lasted for 90 minutes while his second SONA lasted for 120 minutes. His third SONA lasted only for 48 minutes, while his fourth lasted for 93 minutes. (PNA)