All set for Aquino's 3rd SONA on July 23
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Police, politicians, and protesters are all set for President Benigno Aquino III's State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 23, the Chief Executive's third time to report to the Filipino nation.
Aquino will deliver the speech in front of a Joint Session of Congress at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City, beamed live on television, radio, and on the Internet - including a live blog here on Rappler - to Filipinos.
The actual ceremonies leading up to the speech starts in the morning, when the Senate and the House of Representatives both hold respective sessions as part of the opening of the 3rd Regular Session of the 15th Congress. The main event, the address, is estimated to start at 4 pm.
An estimated 2,000 guests are expected to fill the galleries of the Batasan plenary hall.
Each of the 285 representatives and 23 senators are allowed to bring 3 guests. Former presidents, former members of Congress, heads of the diplomatic community, and Cabinet officials are also among those expected to attend the SONA.
While refusing to give hints on Aquino's message this year, the Palace said one thing is for sure: he will still address the country in the national language. For the benefit of the Diplomatic Corps, Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III will act as translator.
"Basically what I’ve said yesterday and previously, it’s a look back and a look forward. So state of the nation po ‘yan, the President is going to lay out what he has accomplished during the past year and may looking forward din po ang kanyang SONA," Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Sunday in an interview on dzRB radio.
Lacierda told reporters on Friday that there will be no "bangkang papel (paper boat) boys," referring to the 3 children used by then-President Gloria Arroyo to symbolize her 1st SONA back in 2001.
"Tapos na po ang SONA niya, so ready na po sa Monday, so he’s good to go," Lacierda said.
"Huwag po nating i-preempt ang Pangulo… hintayin nalang po natin. Mas mabuting hintayin na lang natin at saka para matingnan po ninyo o marinig po ninyo ang kanyang talumpati," Lacierda said.
Since Friday, July 20, Aquino has been rehearsing for the address, according to the Palace, his schedule cleared through the weekend to prep for Monday's event. Malacañang said his speech has undergone its 7th draft.
Aquino is also set to use visual aids to complement his speech.
The event will cost the House of Representatives around P2.7 million, with the bulk of the budget going to "food for guests," according to House secretary-general Marilyn Barua-Yap.
Protesters, meanwhile, are also readying for their SONA-related activities. The nearest anti-SONA protesters can approach the Batasan complex will be up to the Ever Gotesco mall area along Commonwealth Avenue.
Protesters from the Metro and various provinces are expected to converge near the Batasan area. Anti-SONA groups have slated several activities during their rallies, including the burning of an effigy of the President.
They vow to "reveal" what they label the true state of the nation in the streets. Prior to this, several militant groups did not attend a meeting called by police with groups that planned protests.
Other protest activities are slated by the groups in different parts nationwide.
Protesters are advised to bring umbrellas and raincoats, as rain is expected on Monday due to the southwest monsoon's continued effects.
Scattered rainshowers and thunderstorms are expected over Metro Manila, according to the state weather bureau Pagasa.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) went to full alert starting noon Sunday, July 22, and is set to deploy at least 6,000 personnel to secure the Batasan Complex. However, police assigned there are strictly prohibited from carrying firearms, and are instead directed to maintain maximum tolerance.
Lacierda also defended the government's extensive security preparations for the annual event.
"[Officials of the] three branches of government are together. How can it not be taken with great importance…?," he told dzRB radio on Saturday.
Emergency personnel are also on standby, including firetrucks and ambulances. The Armed Forces are also deploying civil disturbance units to the Batasan complex to aid in security.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) designated alternate routes for private and public utility vehicles for Monday.
The MMDA traffic rerouting plan will be implemented along roads leading to the Batasan Pambansa.
At least 4 lanes for every direction will be opened for public utility vehicles along the Commonwealth Avenue counter-flow traffic stretching from the Superstar KTV - U-turn slot up to the San Simon U-turn slot.
Anticipating rallies, the MMDA is also set to deploy about 200 crowd control and management personnel for the SONA.
Meanwhile, Quezon City Schools Division Superintendent Corazon Rubio announced that 29 public and private elementary and high schools near the Batasan Complex area will suspend their respective classes on Monday. - Rappler.com