Constitutional obligation: What happens during SONA day?

July 23, 2021 - 8:16 PM
President Rodrigo Duterte's photo courtesy of PCOO; Art by James Patrick Cruz

The State of the Nation Address (SONA) has been a constant feature of the Philippine presidency.

As a constitutional obligation, the president is tasked to deliver the annual SONA every fourth Monday of July.

The chief executive reports “the status of the country, unveils the government’s agenda for the coming year, and proposes to Congress certain legislative measures.”

Article VII, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution mandates the president to “address the Congress at the opening of its regular session.”

The president appears before Congress upon its invitation, for which a joint session is held at the Session Hall of the House of Representative.

Morning of SONA day

The day begins with the House of Representatives and the Senate holding their respective sessions in their respective chambers and elect their officials.

A concurrent resolution is filed stating that both chambers are ready to hear the address of the president. These sessions are later suspended.

Before the president’s speech

The president is met at the Batasang Pambansa by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff and the sergeants-at-arms of both houses of Congress.

The AFP Chief of Staff escorts the commander-in-chief past the honor guard and is relieved by the sergeant-at-arms of the House of Representatives. This symbolizes the independence of the Legislature under the 1987 Constitution.

The chief executive proceeds to the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), the chief executive’s office in the House Representatives. The leaders of both houses of Congress pay a courtesy call to the president in the PLLO.

The Official Gazette said a welcoming committee, appointed by and among peers in both houses of Congress, accompany the president into the Session Hall.

The Speaker of the House announces the arrival of the president, who sits in between the Senate President and the Speaker of the House.

The joint session of Congress is called to order, followed by the singing of the national anthem and the invocation.

At around 4 p.m., the president descends to the rostrum to deliver the SONA.

After the president’s speech

After the speech, the Speaker of the House and the Senate President adjourn the joint session of Congress for their respective houses and the ceremony is concluded.

Duterte’s last SONA

President Rodrigo Duterte is the first president to deliver his speech amid COVID-19 pandemic. Duterte’s message on July 26 will be the second.

READ: Rundown: What to expect in Duterte’s last SONA

Traditionally, around 3,000 people are physically present at the Batasang Pambansa to witness the president’s speech.

From his fifth and down to his last SONA, only around 350 to 400 people will be present in person while the rest will join the ceremony remotely.

Duterte’s previous SONAs usually lasted for at least an hour to two hours long.

Duterte’s final SONA will be aired via live stream on PTV, Presidential Communications Facebook page, and RTVM YouTube channel.