Noy skipping SONA anew; CHR chief waiting for invitation
MANILA, Philippines — Former president Benigno Aquino III will again skip the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of his successor – as he has consistently done since stepping down in 2016 – and will just follow the annual event on television.
“I’ll just be watching TV as usual,” Aquino replied when asked if he would be honoring the yearly invitation sent to former presidents for the event at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City.
On the other hand, Vice President Leni Robredo – a vocal critic of the vicious war on drugs – has accepted the invitation to attend the SONA, President Duterte’s fourth.
The Office of the Vice President yesterday confirmed Robredo’s attendance at the SONA on July 22.
“I was invited to every SONA, so far,” she said in an interview with dzMM on Friday.
The Vice President, who leads the opposition Liberal Party, described her working relationship with Duterte as “very civil.”
Their last encounter was at the graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City in May.
Robredo also said she believes Duterte does not see her as a threat to his leadership.
“I think, this is just my guess, whenever the President sees me, he feels that I’m not a threat,” she said.
“It only means that I don’t have the desire to wrest power from him, as what others portray. I think he feels that,” she added.
The Vice President has urged the government to welcome a review by the United Nations Human Rights Council of the alleged extrajudicial killings in the country.
Commission on Human Rights chair Chito Gascon, for his part, said he is also looking forward to hearing Duterte’s fourth SONA.
“I would probably be attending should an invitation be forthcoming. It’s probably in the mail,” Gascon said in a text message to The STAR.
In a related development, the House leadership – through acting Secretary-General Dante Roberto Maling – advised the public regarding a “complete lock-out policy” starting July 19 until July 21, the eve of the SONA, as part of security requirements imposed by the Presidential Security Group.
Personnel and non-employees of the chamber with no official business inside the House during the period will not be allowed inside the 16-hectare complex.
The SONA coincides with the opening of the first regular session of the 18th Congress.
The advisory also provides details on the issuance of color-coded pre-SONA security lockout stickers, SONA ID cards, car passes/parking restrictions and other pre-SONA information and reminders.
All color-coded pre-SONA security lockout stickers shall be released only on lockout dates at 7 a.m., or upon entry of the concerned non-House personnel through the North Gate of the complex. – Helen Flores