President Rodrigo Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address (SONA) would still be delivered in a hybrid format as the country remained reeling in a persistent coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, June 1, Senate President Vicente Sotto III replied in the affirmative when asked by Rappler if there would again be a hybrid SONA in 2021.
Sotto met with House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday to discuss initial preparations for Duterte’s speech at the Batasang Pambansa in July.
“We just discussed the preparations for the SONA. We were with our secretaries-general and sergeants-at-arms. Yes, [hybrid format will be followed again],” the Senate President said in a Viber message.
Duterte’s SONA in 2020 was historic, as it was the first time that a hybrid format was adopted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The President still opted to deliver his speech at Batasan despite the surge of COVID-19 cases in the country at the time.
Only 50 people were allowed inside the Batasang Pambansa’s plenary hall – 25 from the executive branch, 13 from the House of Representatives, and 12 from the Senate. The rest of the officials, lawmakers, dignitaries, and other guests attended SONA 2020 virtually.
In a separate message to reporters, Sotto said more Senate officials would be allowed to physically attend this year’s SONA.
“I’ll try to ask pa lang (for now) who are attending. Senate, including secretariat, will only be a maximum of 30 persons,” Sotto said.
Strict health protocols were in place when Duterte delivered his 2020 SONA last year. Those who were authorized to attend in person had to undergo COVID-19 tests and temperature checks before being allowed to enter the gallery.
Malacañang has yet to announce if the President would again choose to deliver what be his final SONA inside Batasan.
As of Tuesday, the Philippines has already tallied over 1.24 million cases of COVID-19, with 21,012 deaths and 1.16 million recoveries. – Rappler.com