TRIVIA: Welcoming committee and other SONA traditions
Editor's Note: Rappler first published this piece in July 2015. Rappler is republishing it this year in line with President Rodrigo Duterte's 3rd State of the Nation Address.
MANILA, Philippines – Since 1986, the Philippine president has been delivering the annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) every fourth Monday of July, as mandated by the Constitution.
The main speech, however, is only part of a full-day ceremony crafted into the tradition of Philippine politics.
According to the Official Gazette, this is what's been practiced for the SONA in the past years – some of them, the present administration will depart from:
Morning before the speech
- SONA actually starts not in the afternoon with the President's speech but in the morning, when the Senate and the House of Representatives, as both houses of Congress, hold a joint session in the House of Representatives. Congress is the official host of the whole ceremony.
- Congress invites the President who then appears at the joint session held in the Session Hall of the House of Representatives.
- Prior to the President's speech, when a new Congress opens after an election, the Senate and the House of Representatives elect their officials.
- A resolution is later filed for both houses to suspend their sessions that day in order for the legislators to listen to the President deliver his address.
Afternoon before the speech
- The President is met at the Batasang Pambansa by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Sergeants-at-Arms of both houses of Congress.
- The AFP Chief of Staff escorts the President past the Honor Guard and is relieved by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives, an action that symbolizes the independence of the Legislature under the Constitution.
- The President then proceeds to the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, the chief executive’s office in the House Representatives, and there he is paid a courtesy call by the leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
- Right before walking into the Session Hall, the President is accompanied by a Welcoming Committee into the venue where he will make his speech. Both houses of Congress appoint members of the Welcoming Committee.
- The Speaker of the House announces the President's arrival and the chief executive sits in between the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.
- The joint session of Congress is called to order, the national anthem is sung, and an invocation is said before the President descends to the rostrum to deliver his SONA.
After the speech
- The Speaker of the House and the Senate President close the joint session of Congress for their respective chambers and the ceremony is concluded.