SONA 2020

Promise? Duterte’s 5th SONA will be aired without edits – Palace

Mara Cepeda
Promise? Duterte’s 5th SONA will be aired without edits –  Palace

START. President Rodrigo Duterte joins Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano during the joint session of the 18th Congress, right before delivering his 2019 SONA.

Malacañang photo

Only the state-run Radio Television Malacañang is allowed entry at the Batasang Pambansa, venue of the President's SONA on July 27

Days after being caught editing the President’s broadcast speech, President Rodrigo Duterte’s communications team gave assurances that his 5th State of the Nation Address on July 27 will be aired live without any edits.

This was Radio Television Malacañang Executive Director Demic Pabalan’s response when asked in a press conference on Wednesday, July 22, how they can assure Filipinos there will be no censorship of the SONA when only the state media is allowed in the venue on Monday, July 27.

“The event will be broadcast live, streamed live on Facebook and Youtube. Hindi po edited. Verbatim po kung ano ‘yong events na nangyari,” Pabalan said. 

(The event will be broadcast live, streamed live on Facebook and Youtube. It will not be edited. It will be verbatim based on the events that will happen.)

Only the Presidential Broadcast Staff of RTVM can enter Batasang Pambansa once Duterte delivers his SONA – a historic one as it will take on a hybrid format given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Media organizations have been told to just re-stream the SONA from RTVM’s live feed on Monday – a rule that they are questioning.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases made the recommendation to limit the number of people at Batasan to prevent any cases of COVID-19 infection.

A limited number of Cabinet officials, lawmakers, dignitaries, and other guests will be allowed to enter Batasan on Monday, with strict physical distancing protocols in place. The rest of the invited guessts will be joining the SONA virtually.

The exclusion of journalists in the Batasan coverage came days after newsrooms discovered that Duterte’s communications team had edited out his mention of embattled media network ABS-CBN, Rappler, the Ayala family, the Consunji family, and business tycoon Manny V Pangilinan in a July 13 speech in Jolo, Sulu. 

Confronted by journalists about the alteration in the broadcasted speech, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque later insisted there is no policy to edit Duterte’s remarks. 

The President is expected to present his government’s COVID-19 recovery plan when he faces the nation on Monday. 

His administration has been heavily criticized for its anemic response to the health crisis, where over 70,000 have been infected with the disease. (READ: Pandemic unravels Duterte’s 2016 promise of decisive leadership)

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 1,837 people in the Philippines. Still, 23,281 patients have already recovered from COVID-19. –

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.