President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. delivers his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) today at the Batasang Pambansa in fulfillment of a constitutional mandate and to follow a tradition that began when President Manuel L. Quezon addressed a special session of the National Assembly on November 25, 1935.
The 1935 Constitution as amended, stated in Article VII, Section 5 that: “[T]he President shall from time to time give to the Congress information on the state of the Nation, and recommend to its consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”Thereafter, Commonwealth Act No. 17 fixed the date of the opening of the sessions of the National Assembly at June 16 of every year.
President Quezon’s speech focused on the “first and most urgent need” involving the “very existence when we became a free member of the family of nations”: the establishment of a national defense policy for the Philippines.
This tradition was evidently emulated from the State of the Union Address. The US Constitution requires the president to periodically “give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” President Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US President, began the practice of delivering this report to Congress in person in order to rally support for his legislative agenda.
From the Commonwealth period, the practice was revived during the first postwar republic by President Manuel Roxas, followed by his successor, President Elpidio Quirino. President Quirino delivered his second address by radio broadcast from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, USA, while he was recuperating from an operation.
The current Philippine Constitution states, “The President shall address the Congress at the opening of its regular session. He may also appear before it at any other time.” While the term State of the Nation Address is not explicitly stated, it is recognized that it is being delivered pursuant to established tradition.
With the restoration of Congress, President Corazon Aquino delivered her first State of the Nation Address in July 27, 1987. Thereafter, the President’s SONA has been delivered on the fourth Monday of July. On July 27, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte gave his second to the last SONA to a limited audience of 50 key Cabinet and Congress officials at the Batasang Pambansa due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For the first time after three years, the House of Representatives bared that around 1,300 guests have been invited for President Marcos’ first SONA. Health protocols require guests to present a printed copy of a negative RT-PCR test result taken 48 hours before the event.The Batasang Pambansa complex has undergone a major refurbishment.
President Marcos has expressed his wish for a “simple SONA” so the people could focus on the message to Congress. He is expected to outline the government’s post-Covid recovery plan, especially in light of current global and national challenges. With an overwhelming mandate from the people, the president is buckling down to work on reviving the economy and rejuvenating the national spirit.