Pres. Duterte’s sixth SONA; remembering Judge Jose de Venecia Sr. and our family’s entry into politics

Published July 25, 2021, 12:06 AM

by Former House Speaker Jose C. De Venecia Jr.


Jose de Venecia Jr.
Former Speaker of the House

Tomorrow, July 26, President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his sixth and final State of the Nation Address (SONA), with the COVID-19 plague still hovering over our country and around the world.

It will be the second time that our nation will witness a “hybrid” SONA, with reportedly only some 200 people to be physically present at the session hall of the Batasang Pambansa when the President delivers his speech, while the other officials of the executive branch as well as some senators and congressmen attend via video conferencing.

President Duterte will report to the Filipino people on both his accomplishments during the last five years and plans in his remaining year in office amidst the political posturing and realignments for the forthcoming 2022 elections.

He will address a nation besieged by acrimonious issues such as and especially his administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, West Philippine Sea dispute, and the war against drugs and corruption. We believe these will be among the major issues during the campaign period.

Philippine history tells us that the first State of the Nation Address was delivered by President Manuel L. Quezon on November, 1935 at the then Legislative Building in Manila during the days of the Philippine Commonwealth, the training period before the Philippine ascent to a Republic.

Notably, President Elpidio Quirino delivered his SONA from Maryland in the United States on January, 1950 via live radio broadcast as he was then confined at a hospital in Baltimore.

President Ferdinand Marcos was the first to deliver SONA at the Batasang Pambansa, on June, 1978. From 1973 to 1978, he conducted his SONA either in Malacañang or at the Quirino Grandstand as both the Senate and the House of Representatives were abolished when Martial Law was declared in September 21, 1972.

We were then a young, first-term congressman whose term was abruptly terminated when President Marcos imposed Martial Law, and this became his eventual undoing.

Since 1978, the SONA has been delivered at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.


Last June 20, as the Philippines and the whole world celebrated Father’s Day, we remembered our late father, Jose Ravago de Venecia, Sr.

After World War II, our father served as Judge at Large for the entire Bicol region appointed by the late President Manuel Roxas, first President of the Philippine Republic, and eventually promoted to Judge of the Court of First Instance in Nueva Vizcaya until he retired in the 1960s.

Before his appointment to the judiciary, he had been an assistant fiscal in Pangasinan, provincial fiscal of La Union, and chief of the Justice Department’s anti-usury division. He also served much earlier as municipal councilor of Dagupan.

He was soft-spoken but firm in his decisions, gentle in manners but tough on discipline. He frowned on idleness and encouraged productive activities. He always dressed properly.

Our father started us on a lifelong hobby of reading. As a young boy, we would spend many hours every day devouring our father’s library of history and literary books, biographies, and periodicals.

He always told us that to serve our country and people through public service is an honor and privilege, and for which one must carry out his duties with vision, excellence, commitment, dignity, and hardwork.

Before joining the government, he worked in the law office of Don Teofilo Sison, who became governor of Pangasinan, senator, and secretary of defense during the Philippine Commonwealth.

One of our father’s colleagues in the law office was Narciso Ramos, who eventually became a congressman and foreign affairs secretary. Narciso Ramos was the father of former President Fidel V. Ramos.

Our father had four brothers and several cousins, who achieved some honors: Gualberto, who finished medical studies at the Imperial University in Tokyo; Herman, a graduate of medicine in the United States and married an American; Policronio, who studied medicine in Germany and married a Berlin girl, Erna, and who was appointed by President Ramon Magsaysay as consul general in Hamburg after the war; and Zosimo, who took up Fine Arts in America and returned to the Philippines as a soldier with the great General Douglas MacArthur’s liberation forces.

Our father, the oldest was the only one who was not sent abroad for his graduate studies as he fell in love with our beloved mother Casimira Claveria, at a young age and chose to marry her over foreign education. She passed away from tuberculosis in 1945 when we were nine, with the arrival of US troops under General MacArthur in Dagupan, Lingayen Gulf, as there was still no penicillin during the Japanese occupation.

We tell friends that our grandfather, Guillermo de Venecia, who became mayor of Dagupan, must have had a profound understanding of geopolitics as he sent his children tocountries which indeed shaped the course of modern history, the United States of America, Germany, and Japan during World War II.

Our grandfather groomed Eugenio Perez from the rival city of San Carlos, who later became Speaker of the House, last Speaker of the Commonwealth and first Speaker of the Philippine Republic.

Guillermo de Venecia was our hero who later inspired us to run for congressman and won five times as Speaker with God’s blessings. We are not trying to lift our bench but that was the way it was. We owe everything to God and our people.