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How COVID-19 changed the hosting of SONA

July 24, 2020 - Friday 12:07 PM by PNA

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MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte's 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) makes a striking departure from tradition in the time of the Covid-19 global pandemic.

The government has revamped the way SONA is traditionally held with current restrictions on mass gatherings in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Despite the threat posed by Covid-19, Duterte decided to be physically present at the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City when he delivers his fifth SONA on July 27.

Trimmed-down affair

Traditionally, the presidential family, members of Congress and their spouses, former presidents, foreign diplomats, government officials and other dignitaries are invited to attend the annual SONA.

The Batasan complex usually bustles with hundreds of guests to listen to the President’s speech.

However, there will only be a limited number of people who can attend this year’s event.
Only 15 seats will be reserved for Cabinet members and 25 seats each for senators and congressmen.

Attendees would have to undergo a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests a day before the event.

From flair to bare

The classic red carpet won’t be rolled out this year for guests. Instead, disinfection mats, sanitizers, and infrared thermometers would welcome them at entrances as health and safety protocols.

In previous years, the SONA was akin to a fashion show as politicians and other top-level guests have graced the event in formal wear.

The chamber’s hallways would always be filled with members of the media as they await guests to walk down the red carpet, stop for photo ops, and entertain interviews.

"Syempre po, wala na yang madamihan na opisyales na nag-a-attend, wala na yung fashion show na pagandahan ng suot, at tingin ko po, kakaunti lang ang mag-assemble sa Kongreso (Of course, there would be no longer too many officials who would attend. There’s no more fashion show and I think, there would only be a few who would assemble in Congress),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said.

In an advisory sent to reporters, the House of Representatives said no members of the media will be allowed inside the premises of Batasang Pambansa during the President’s SONA.

Only members of the Presidential Broadcast Staff-Radio Television Malacañang (PBS-RTVM) will be authorized inside the chamber’s premises to cover the SONA, the advisory read.

Despite the limited media coverage of the annual event, RTVM said Duterte’s SONA will be aired live and without edits.

However, there will be no live singing of the Philippine national anthem, and video playback will be presented instead before the delivery of the speech.

Film director Joyce Bernal will be directing the SONA for the third time.

Article 7, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution mandates the President to “address the Congress at the opening of its regular session.”

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. Filane Mikee Cervantes