#DuterteSONA2017: Things you have to know

MANILA-- Preparations are currently underway for the second State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on July 24, 2017 at the Plenary Hall of the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.

President Duterte is expected to tell the Filipino people about the situation of the country, highlight the accomplishments of his Administration, and lay down his plans for the years ahead.

Round-the-clock preparations

In the days leading up to the SONA, repairs and maintenance works of roads, particularly in Quezon City, are being hastened by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). These include asphalt overlaying, repainting of pavements and road markings, and cutting of grass along the center island of Commonwealth Avenue leading to the Batasang Pambansa Complex.

On the other hand, simple arrangements are being undertaken for the session hall, lobbies, and reception areas of the Batasang Pambansa building as President Duterte wants another simple SONA event. The three-level galleries and plenary floor have a seating capacity of 1,300, but additional seats will be set up.

A total of 1,236 parking slots for the use of guests and attendees are allotted for the event, which include two new parking structures with 300 parking slots. About 50 more vehicles can be accommodated at the newly-completed South Wing Annex Roadway.

Guests are encouraged to carpool as they are expected to number around 3,000. The Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) � Office of the President has partnered with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to use the DSWD grounds for the Cabinet members and their staff. They will be transported by bus to the House of Representatives main lobby altogether from DSWD and vice versa.

The President's family members were given invitation. Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is expected to attend, according to the Davao City Information Office.

Wide screen television sets will be installed at the North Wing lobby lounge for latecomers and other attendees.

Prior to the day of the SONA, there will be several short videos online and in government-owned media featuring the achievements, projects and initiatives of the Duterte administration.

'Business as usual'

Aside from lawmakers and their spouses, foreign diplomats, government officials, and other dignitaries will grace the annual event to hear the president's speech.

Departing from tradition and common practice, Duterte's SONA dramatizes a simple and populist character. It shuns the usual pomp and pageantry. Wearing tuxedos, evening gowns, or elaborate outfits, though not prohibited, is discouraged.

The dress code, just like the previous year, is still business attire or Barong for men, and business attire or Filipiniana dress at knee length for women.

Last year, President Duterte defined his personal style by simply donning a Barong Tagalog with rolled-up sleeves and paired with dark-colored pants. This year, it is expected that he will wear his signature-style Barong Tagalog.

Heightened security

Stricter security measures will be enforced in anticipation of all possible threats. A no-fly zone, which includes drones, will be in effect during the SONA.

The National Capital Region Police Office is said to send a 6,000-strong police force for the event, which includes the Civil Disturbance Management (CDM) units and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team. The figure is 50 percent higher than last year's 4,000 policemen. No batons, shields, or firearms, however, will be used by CDM cops who are tasked to manage protests.

The Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) is expected to provide support to the police. The Bureau of Fire Protection will also help. Emergency personnel and ambulances will be on standby.

The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), meanwhile, will deploy approximately 2,000 traffic enforcers to manage the flow of traffic. Its Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, commonly known as the "number-coding", will remain in effect. A traffic rerouting plan will be published. Classes in all levels for both private and public schools in Quezon City will be suspended on July 24 to pave the way for the SONA.

On the other hand, protesters will be allowed to occupy three lanes on the northbound of Commonwealth Avenue. No barbed wires and container vans will be put up to block protesters, but plastic barriers will be installed near the Batasang Pambansa Complex. Likewise, a 200-meter boundary is established between the rallyists and the Batasan gate.

Aside from the Presidential Security Group (PSG), the House of Representatives will also use its own security service -- the Legislative Security Bureau -- to ensure the safety and security of guests and everyone else during the SONA. The deployment of canine units is part of the security measures.

The Plenary Hall will be opened for guests at 2 p.m. Brochures, highlighting the accomplishments of the Duterte administration during its first year, will be distributed to attendees. Guests are requested to put their mobile phones on silent mode while in the Plenary Hall. Canned soda and bottled water are also not allowed inside.

Traditional ceremony

The President is set to arrive by air or land at 3:30 p.m. He will be accorded arrival honors to be led by the AFP Chief-of-Staff, together with the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate and House of Representatives, who will escort the President towards the rear entrance as they walk past the honor guards.

The Senate President and the House Speaker and a welcoming committee composed of the Senate Majority Leader, House Majority Floor Leader, Senate Secretary, and House Secretary-General will meet the President at the main door and lead him to the Legislators' Lounge, where the President is paid a courtesy call by the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, before proceeding to the Plenary Hall for the joint session of Congress.

After which, 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.

Meaningful speech

The President's SONA is expected to start at 4 p.m. The speech is drafted in English, but the President, like last year, might deliver some off-the-cuff remarks.

With the theme "A Comfortable Life for All", the speech is believed to resonate better with more Filipinos. This theme is supported by the Administration's three key agenda -- prosperity for all, law and order, and peace -- which categorize the positive changes felt by the people.

For the first time in recent Philippine history, the President will submit his Administration's proposed 2018 national budget, worth PHP3.767-trillion, on the day of the SONA itself, with the biggest chunk allotted for education, infrastructure development, and health care.

The SONA will be aired live on PTV, Presidential Communications Facebook page, and RTVM YouTube channel. The hashtag #DuterteSONA2017 will be used for social media postings.

The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) is said to once again work with the award-winning filmmaker Brillante Mendoza, who will direct the production of President Duterte's SONA.

The PCOO is also set to assign sign language interpreter for those with auditory impairment. Spanish, French, German, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese interpreters will also be provided for the diplomats present during the event. An English translator is on standby to interpret the President's vernacular lines for attending foreign dignitaries.

Cocktail reception after the SONA is by invitation only, where PRRD will meet with members of the diplomatic corps. A very simple menu of food selection also awaits invited guests at the reception.

A technical report titled "President's Report to the People" will be uploaded online, while printed copies of the same report will be distributed to selected schools, embassies, government offices, and other institutions following the event.

Source: Philippines News Agency