Conduct of Duterte’s 5th SONA needs to be altered if pandemic persists – Zubiri
MANILA, Philippines — Should the COVID-19 pandemic persist to threaten the country until July, it would be “impossible” for President Rodrigo Duterte’ to deliver his fifth State of the National Address (SONA) as though it were “business as usual,” according to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.
“I don’t see the GCQ [general community quarantine] coming down early August. We would probably still be under GCQ in June and July,” he told reporters in a teleconference on Monday.
The President is mandated under the Constitution to deliver his SONA before a joint session of Congress every fourth Monday of July.
But with the government imposing strict quarantine measures, Zubiri believes adjustments will have to be undertaken for the upcoming SONA.
“I can see a few scenarios during the State of the Nation Address,” he said.
The President could either deliver a televised SONA Malacañang or that the number of those who can physically be present at the Batasang Pambansa would be limited only to members of Congress, Zubiri said.
“I can see the extreme scenario that the State of the Nation Address would not push through and that he will just give a televised address,” the senator said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“Another possible scenario would be limiting the number of those who can attend to congressmen and women and senators, and no more visitors would be allowed, so we can practice social distancing. We can space out the table and chairs of the lawmakers to minimize the risk of transmission,” he added.
According to Zubiri, it would be unlikely that the President’s annual report to Congress would proceed as the way it did in previous years.
“It’s really unlikely for the State of the Nation Address to proceed with so many people inside of the very cramped area of the Philippine Congress. I don’t see that happening,” he said.
“If they do as before, everyone will be infected,” he added. “And you have to remember, all heads of government offices will be there. So if they all get COVID-19, our government would be paralyzed.”
Metro Manila and other high-risk areas remain under an enhanced community quarantine until May 15, while a general community quarantine has been imposed on moderate to low- risk provinces since May 1.
As of Monday afternoon, Philippine health officials have confirmed 9,485 COVID-19 cases nationwide, of whom, 1,315 have recovered and 623 have died.