We look forward to the President’s SONA

Published July 23, 2020, 10:31 PM

by Manila Bulletin

In these times of uncertainty, when  so many  institutions, celebrations, and occasions for which we are known as a nation  have  been  upended because of the  COVID-19 pandemic, it is good to know that President  Duterte will carry on the tradition of personally appearing  before  Congress in  joint  session  on Monday, July 27,  to deliver his annual State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The President could have chosen to deliver his SONA  via television from  the safety of  Malacañang  on the bank of the Pasig River in Manila, lest  he somehow  catch  the virus on the way to the Batasan in Quezon  City or right in the halls of the Batasan itself.  

Security is bound to be tight and health measures are bound to be thorough, but  the COVID-19  virus, despite the best  efforts of the world’s   top scientists and health experts, has managed to spread around the globe these last  seven months, infecting such world leaders as the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Brazil’s President  Jair  Messias  Bolsonaro.  There is so much that is not known about this virus,  that  it is best  to avoid any  situation, any gathering of people, where it might  somehow find a way to reach a new victim.

The arrangements for  the President’s appearance at the Batasan have  been carefully planned.  Only  50 people   will be in the vast assembly  hall of the House of Representatives, which would normally have over 300 congressmen, 24 senators, their  staffs, and hundreds of people in the gallery for the SONA.

  The 50 on the floor on Monday, seated  with  considerable spaces between  them,   will be 13 congressmen, 12 senators,  and 25 members of  the executive department. All will  be subjected  to rapid  coronavirus  tests before being allowed entry into the Batasan. All will be wearing face masks.

The President’s speech will  be  aired on radio and television  over the government network  Radio Television  Malacañang  (RTVM)   and  the social media accounts of the Presidential  Communications  Office and  Radio Television Malacañang.  Private media may hook up with  RTVM.

Over the years, the delivery of the  President’s SONA  on the first day of  the new regular session of Congress  has been  met  by protest marches  along the road to the Batasan. This year, because of the  pandemic,  mass gatherings  of any kind are discouraged but with proper distancing,  protesters  should be able  to stage their traditional demonstrations  for their  various causes.

Through  all  the  safety precautions on Monday, the nation should be able to hear the President’s State of the Nation Address  in the safety of  their homes around the country.  There is much that the President  is expected to say, including  on such issues as the recently enacted  Anti-Terror Law,  the country’s  relations with the United  States, China, and other nations,  the national budget and other national issues,  but  we expect that this year’s  SONA will focus on the pandemic, its deadly toll in the lives and health of Filipinos, the impact on the nation’s economy, and plans for national recovery .