MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Everyone is waiting to be surprised at President Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA).
After all, this is the president who has already flouted convention many times, barely a month into his presidency.
Duterte is the president who paired jeans with a barong for a formal military ceremony and issued a memorandum circular so no one can refer to him as “His Excellency.”
His inauguration was a smaller and simpler affair than what Filipinos are used to, with his choice to hold it in Malacañang Palace instead of a public venue.
So what can we expect from the first SONA of the first Mindanaoan president?
As in the inauguration, you can expect the SONA to preserve most of the traditions of the event minus the pomp and pageantry.
Here’s what we know about the SONA and major SONA-related events from organizers and Duterte himself:
1. Invitations. Some 3,000 people are invited but because the session hall fits only 1,650, organizers are renting more chairs. Guests include top politicians, Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, members of the diplomatic corps, former presidents, and other special guests. (READ: Aquino to skip Duterte’s 1st SONA)
2. Dress code. The dress code is simple business attire. Any dress worn at the event should not be longer than knee-length, organizers have requested.
3. Menu. Guests will be served a Filipino-inspired merienda buffet, including fresh lumpiang ubod, empanaditas, and monggo soup.
4. Program. SONA guests have to be in the Batasang Pambansa’s plenary hall by 3 pm to ensure they are seated by the time Duterte arrives and delivers his speech at 4 pm. But in the morning, lawmakers are expected to already be in the plenary hall to begin the 17th Congress’ session at 10 am. (READ: Duterte’s 1st SONA: Program flow for July 25)
5. Speech. A plea for peace and call to stop hatred will be a topic in Duterte’s speech, the President himself said during a trip to Zamboanga City.
For the rest of the speech’s content, Duterte asked his Cabinet secretaries for input, said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella. You can expect Duterte to mention laws he wants Congress to pass including the reinstatement of death penalty, tax reform, and amendments to the Constitution to pave the way for federalism.
His speech will likely be around 38 minutes long, minus applause and adlib, said Communications Secretary Martin Andanar. Duterte will begin speaking at around 4 pm.
6. First Family. Duterte’s daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio was already in Manila on Monday morning to represent her mother and two siblings during the SONA but her doctor advised her to rest instead. Her husband Manases Carpio is representing her and her family at the SONA.
7. Special song. Remember Freddie Aguilar’s performance of Duterte’s campaign song at the inauguration? You will hear another specially-composed song at the SONA. Abella said it will likely be played as Duterte exits the plenary hall.
8. Singer of national anthem. Manobo singer Bayang Barrios, whose real name is Junelie Otero Barrios, has been selected to sing the “Lupang Hinirang” during the SONA. She hails from Agusan del Sur.
9. Director. Award-winning film director Brillante Mendoza is directing the SONA for free. As event director, Mendoza will be supervising the flow of events, aesthetic details like lighting, documentation, and other aspects. Asked what his goal for the event is, Mendoza said he wants to show the “true Duterte.”
10. Simpler entrance. The President will no longer be welcomed by a large group of lawmakers when he arrives. He will walk alone on the red carpet as he makes his way to the Batasang Pambansa building where only the Senate President and House Speaker will greet him at the entrance.
11. No effigy-burning in SONA rallies. Left-leaning groups like Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said they would not be burning an effigy of the President during their SONA rally, a first in decades. Secretary General Renato Reyes even said their rally will not be anti-administration because Duterte is “not an enemy.”
“Meron lang sigurong magaganap na kaonting adjustment dahil nga ang turing sa nakaupong pangulo ay hindi naman kaaway at meron ding mga kasamahan tayo na bahagi rin ng administrasyong Duterte,” he told reporters last July 21.
(There will probably be some adjustments because we don’t consider the sitting president an enemy and we have colleagues who are part of the Duterte administration.)
12. Mass for victims of extrajudicial killings. The Archdiocese of Manila is organizing a Mass on SONA day with the theme “Huwag kang papatay” (Thou shall not kill). Families of victims of extrajudicial killings have been invited. The Mass will be held at 5 pm at St Vincent de Paul Parish Church in Ermita, Manila.
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