âNo audience for Duterteâs SONA in Batasanâ
But presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. clarified that there is no assurance yet that the Chief Executive would physically go to the Batasan to deliver the SONA, or if he would just do it via video telecast from Malacañang.
STAR/ File
‘No audience for Duterte’s SONA in Batasan’
Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - July 17, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — For the first time, President Duterte will deliver his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa with a limited number of lawmakers and an empty gallery in an effort to protect him from coronavirus infection, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said yesterday.

But presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. clarified that there is no assurance yet that the Chief Executive would physically go to the Batasan to deliver the SONA, or if he would just do it via video telecast from Malacañang.

“The venue is confirmed, it is Batasan. But from what I know, it’s not yet 100 percent sure if the President can physically attend or he would broadcast from Malago to Congress,” Roque said at yesterday’s press briefing.

Sotto said he expected the President to inform the nation of the exact situation of the country, which has been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I just received word today (Thursday) that the President has decided to deliver his SONA in the Batasang Pambansa at the House of Representatives on July 27,” he told reporters in a virtual interview via Zoom.

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the SONA would most likely be a “blended” setup where a limited number of guests will be allowed in the session hall while the rest of the lawmakers will attend through online teleconferencing.

Sotto said he expects the President to give a verified information on the pandemic and not a “flattened the curve” report in apparent reference to the pronouncement of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III that was later retracted.

He explained that the number of those who will be physically present at the premises will be limited to a maximum of 50 people, all of whom will be subjected to COVID-19 rapid testing, required to wear mask and must pass the temperature test before being allowed to enter the Batasang Pambansa premises.

Twenty-five seats will be reserved for the executive department, including Cabinet members, 13 for members of the House of Representatives under Speaker Cayetano and 12 for the Senate.

However, Sotto noted that the 50 people already include the security officers as well as House and Senate staffers.

“Not all members of the Cabinet are allowed. There are only a select few, and there will be no audience,” he explained.

Of the 12 seats for the Senate, only eight senators—including Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Christopher Go, Ronald dela Rosa, Sherwin Gatchalian, Francis Tolentino and Pia Cayetano—will be physically present.

Congress, which has been on a break, will resume its second regular session on July 27 to be followed by the President’s SONA.

A day after session resumes, Sotto said on top of their agenda is the passage of several measures on third and final reading, including the Bayanihan 2, or part 2 of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gave the President more power to address the pandemic.

Other bills in the agenda include the amendments to the Revised Penal Code and the Organic Agrarian Bill of 2020. Also up for interpellation are the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act (CITIRA), expanded solo parents, coco levy, medical scholarship, basic Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), Department of Disaster, Public Service Act and agrarian reform measures.

The Department of Trade and Industry also called for immediate passage of the economic stimulus measure to jumpstart the nation’s recovery from recession.  Alexis Romero, Edu Punay

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