President Rodrigo Duterte is rehearsing for his sixth and last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 26, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
“The President has rehearsal today for his SONA. This is his first rehearsal since his speech has already been finalized),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser, adding possible changes in Duterte’s speech would depend on the President.
Duterte is expected to flaunt the government’s achievements in his final SONA next week since he took power in 2016, particularly the peace and security, corruption, and foreign policy, Malacanang said.
Roque said the President was ready to deliver his final speech to the Filipino people and would look back on the past five years that he was president and focus on the improvements of the country in social programs, infrastructure, peace and security, foreign policy.
“Based on past SONAs, the President doesn’t like to have changes in his speech but in the end, he is the one who makes the edits as he rehearses,” he added.
The President would likewise tell the public where the Philippines currently was.
“He will answer the questions. ‘What and where are we now?’ and ‘Looking forward to his last year as the President,” Roque said.
He said Duterte’s SONA would be the same as in 2020 in terms of attendance because of the threat of coronavirus disease 2019.
It would observe the prescribed health protocols, the number of people who would be allowed inside Batasan would be very limited.
Roque also said that only fully vaccinated guests would be allowed at the Batasan Pambansa on the day of the SONA. Rapid tests would also be conducted at the House of Representatives.
The Palace official said the president’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, would skip her father’s final SONA while most of Duterte’s Cabinet members were expected to attend.
“Mayor Sara has said she won’t be able to attend but we expect that those who attended last year will likewise attend this year. The Cabinet has also been invited, and we expect that many of them will attend,” Roque said.
Duterte’s critic, Vice President Leni Robredo, was not invited to physically attend the SONA but would be virtually attending the event.
Roque, however, clarified that it was the House of Representatives that sent the invitations, not Malacanang.
Only government media would be allowed to cover Duterte’s last SONA at the Batasan complex, while private media would join remotely.
Presidential Security Group commander Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III on June 25 guaranteed a “smooth and safe” conduct of Duterte’s final SONA.
The Philippine National Police will deploy around 15,000 officers to secure Duterte’s SONA.
Article 7, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution requires the president to “address the Congress at the opening of its regular session.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana gave President Duterte a rating of “90 percent” in terms of his administration’s accomplishments in preserving peace and security in the country.
Guided by the President’s order to defend what rightfully belongs to the country without going to war, Lorenzana also said they have consistently asserted the Philippines’ sovereignty and sovereign rights.
As of last year, Lorenzana said the country has conducted 186 air and 575 maritime patrols.
“We now have more littoral monitoring stations and detachments in strategic locations to monitor vessels transiting within Philippine waters and key sea lanes of communication,” he added.
Lorenzana also cited the benefits of the country’s defense cooperation with other countries, inside and outside the region.
“Due to our Trilateral Cooperative Agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia, we quickly reduced kidnapping-for-ransom incidents and other crimes in Sulu waters,” he added.
Aside from this, Lorenzana said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also invested in climate change and disaster resilience efforts.
“More importantly, member states have committed to asserting the Asean centrality in dealing with other countries in the Indo-Asia Pacific region, especially towards the peaceful and amicable resolution of territorial disputes in accordance with international laws,” he added.
Lorenzana also cited the milestones reached by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in enhancing its capacity and capability.
This includes the upgrading of systems, doctrines, and the acquisition of capital assets and equipment.
Some of these newly acquired assets include the two newly-acquired Jose Rizal-class missile frigates, the six-newly delivered Embraer A-29B “Super Tucano” close-air support aircraft and a number of combat utility helicopters.
Lorenzana was referring to the Polish-made S-70i “Black Hawk” helicopters, of which 10 units are now in the country while the remaining five are to be delivered within the year.
Despite the July 4 crash of the Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft in Patikul, Sulu which claimed the lives of 50 military personnel and injured 46 others along with three civilians killed and four others wounded, Lorenzana said the “One Defense Team” remains committed to serving the nation and its people.
National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, for his part, highlighted the gains in the fight against local and foreign terrorist groups amid the pandemic, adding authorities had advanced their priorities in national security.
“On anti-terrorism, we have learned from the lessons of the Marawi siege. We now continue to come out victorious in the battlefields against the local terrorist groups and foreign terrorist fighters,” Esperon said.
Esperon said that one of the tools that propelled in gaining upper hand against terrorism is the strengthening of the legal framework for prosecuting acts of terrorism with the signing of the Anti-Terrorism Act July last year.