MANILA, July 25 — The second State of the Nation Address (SONA) was a showcase of simplicity.
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday, July 24, spoke from the heart as he delivered his SONA, describing the country’s present situation and laying down his future plans and prospects, including his legislative priorities.
He was frank and outspoken and went off-script from time to time to emphasize a point or share a light banter with his audience.
The Chief Executive discussed his Administration’s continued fight against illegal drugs and all forms of criminality, ending the Marawi rebellion and battling terrorism, the extension of martial law, stopping destructive mining operations, paying the right taxes, the Build-Build-Build program, among others.
His speech, which took more than two hours to finish, was largely in English, with some off-the-cuff remarks spoken in Tagalog and a bit of Visayan dialects to resonate well with the Filipino people.
Towards the end of his speech, the Chief Executive submitted before Congress his Administration’s PHP3.767-trillion budget proposal for next year.
Prior to the SONA proper, President Duterte arrived 4 p.m. at the Batasang Pambansa Complex on board the presidential chopper. Accompanied by Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, he was received by Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff Eduardo Año, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Jose Balajadia Jr., and House Sergeant-at-Arms Rolando Detabali in the landing area.
In contrast to the large group of lawmakers that traditionally greet the President, PRRD was welcomed by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. The two leaders ushered him to the Legislators’ Lounge, where he met with Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, and Quezon City 4th District Representative Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. before proceeding to the Plenary Hall.
A Mindanaoan staff member of the House of Representatives’ Human Resource Management Service, Monaliza Adam, sang a capella the Philippine national anthem.
Catholic priest Father Alexander Balatbat and Muslim imam Jamel Rombo Cayamodin, on the other hand, led the invocation.
SONA director Brillante Mendoza, who also directed last year’s SONA, used more cameras to shoot more angles of the President as he was speaking, as well as to capture the audience’s reactions.
About 2,000 invitations were sent for the SONA event, which was attended by top politicians, foreign diplomats and living past presidents.
Former presidents Fidel V. Ramos, incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, and Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo graced the occasion. Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo and Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno were also present.
Other prominent guests like former House Speaker and now special envoy for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Jose de Venecia Jr., erstwhile Duterte’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr., businessman Peter Wallace, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, were spotted in the annual event.
In line with the administration’s avowed austerity mindset, most of the guests complied with the dress code. Piña-made Filipiniana dresses and simple barong took center stage as everyone stuck to keeping the event simple. A few political personalities donned statement attires.
President Duterte came in a traditional Barong Tagalog sans elaborate embroideries. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte was dressed in a pink terno. Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte wore a nature-inspired barong. The President’s youngest son, Sebastian Duterte, opted for a clean-look barong.
President Duterte’s common-law wife Honeylet Avanceña, dressed in peach terno, also attended the occasion.
Cabinet members who attended the SONA to show their support to the President included Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, among others.
Invited guests proceeded to the cocktail reception after the SONA, and were treated to a very simple menu of food choices. There were assorted canapés, fruit tartlettes, spring rolls, and popular Filipino merienda like turrones and bibingka. House blend ice tea, lemonada, coffee, or tea are the choices for beverage. No alcoholic drink was served.
After the SONA, President Duterte, in another rare move, proceeded outside the Batasan complex to talk to left-wing protesters. Then, he went back inside the legislative building to hold a press conference, where he answered queries and clarified some issues, ranging from terrorism and Martial Law extension to economic growth concerns, from members of the media.