All eyes and ears will once again be on President Rodrigo Duterte as he "updates" the Filipinos about the country's situation in his fourth State of the Nation Address on July 22.
Just like in his previous SONAs, the President, who will speak in front of the lawmakers at the Plenary Hall of the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City, is expected to brag about his administration's achievements for the past three years.
As preparations are already underway, from the arrangements inside the session hall to management of traffic situations, the anticipation on what the President will say or refuse to talk about builds every minute.
WHAT TO EXPECT
In the previous years, over 3,000 guests, donning business attires and Filipiniana, flocked to the Batasang Pambansa to personally hear Duterte's pronouncements.
House acting secretary-general Roberto Maling said the invited guests include lawmakers, Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices, members of the diplomatic corps, former presidents, and other special guests.
Former President Benigno Aquino III has already announced he will skip the SONA for the 4th year in a row. Vice President Leni Robredo, on the other hand, said she will attend the event.
Meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and Davao City Vice Mayor Baste Duterte, who were present last year, confirmed they will not attend their father's special day. Sara said she remains on a medical leave, while Baste bared he was occupied with a regular session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Davao.
Aside from the attendees, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra will also perform at the event, reportedly playing the national anthem "Lupang Hinirang," as well as “Ikaw” by Freddie Aguilar, one of Duterte’s favorite songs.
Moreover, award-winning television and movie director Joyce Bernal will direct anew the President's 4th SONA for the second time, bringing some "creative surprises" this time around.
For his part, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte's 4th SONA would highlight the legacy of the current administration and its path for the next three years.
Andanar said the President will likely discuss the government's efforts to reduce poverty, implement mega infrastructure projects, and bring peace and order programs.
"Number one, poverty alleviation, bringing poverty rate down from 21 to 14 and making the economy upper middle class by the end of his term. Second would be the infrastructure projects," he said.
"And thirdly, there’s the peace and order highlighting the national task force to end local communist armed conflict, because you can never have progress without peace and order. And I think those three topics would be the focus of the President [in his speech]," he added.
Beyond the flaunting of the so-called "Duterte Legacy" and introducing the legislative agenda of the administration the next three years, the President will also "educate" the public on the constitutionality of the verbal fishing agreement he entered into with Chinese President Xi Jinping in October 2016.
Also, one of the most anticipated turn of events on Monday is the decision on who will be the next House Speaker of the incoming 18th Congress.
Duterte already gave his endorsement, saying that Taguig-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano will share the term with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco.
Leyte 1st District Rep. Martin Romualdez, also a top contender for the post, was recommended by Duterte to become House majority leader.
Davao City 1st District Rep. Paolo Duterte floated rumors that one of his father's three bets for speakership is "planning a coup d’état on July 22." The President then quickly shot down his own son's claim, viewing it as a "wishful thinking."
The Chief Executive, however, bared that he would not take offense if his allies in the supermajority will refuse to heed his "formula" on speakership.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo then said the decision on who will be the next leader of the lower chamber still depends on the members of the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, asked about the duration of the SONA, Andanar told the public that they can expect Duterte's SONA to be at least 45 minutes long to one hour.
Panelo also said Duterte will deliver a "short" SONA as his alter egos in the Cabinet have already reported some of the gains of his administration to the public through the Pre-SONA.
"The President will be discussing the achievements of his administration on a particular year, and since the pre-SONAs are already doing that, I don’t think he will have to repeat that,” Panelo noted.
The Palace had earlier announced that the fora, dubbed as "Tatak ng Pagbabago 2019," was a pre-SONA campaign allowing the six Cabinet clusters to inform the Filipinos on the long-run effects of the administration’s implementation of its respective packages of policies and programs, as well as triumphs in pursuing genuine and lasting change.
The three-part fora were a collaborative effort from six Cabinet clusters namely the Economic Development Cluster, the Infrastructure Cluster, the Participatory Governance Cluster, the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster, the Climate Change, Adaptation, Mitigation Disaster Reduction Cluster, and the Security, Justice, and Peace Cluster.
Over the past weeks, the six Cabinet clusters, which were divided into three groups, toured the country's major cities to speak about the Duterte administration's achievements.
The first forum, called “Patuloy na Pag-unlad” by the Economic Development and Infrastructure Cluster was held last July 1 in Manila.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the Philippines remains on track to hit its 7 percent economic target in three years with the acceleration of the infrastructure program 'Build, Build, Build,' the reform of the tax system, and other economic reforms.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia also said that the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has been fast-tracking the "flawless" implementation of the national ID system.
On July 10, the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cluster, with the Participatory Governance Cluster, held their “Patuloy na Malasakit at Pagkakaisa” forum in Cebu City.
Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista reported the significant drop of poverty incidence in the first half of 2018 by 6.1 percent as compared to the same period in 2015.
According to the DSWD chief, more Filipino families were able to meet their basic food needs as subsistence incidence decreased also to 6.2 percent in the first half of 2018.
The 2nd leg of the fora also focused on the administration's policies in providing every Filipino people broader access to education, employment, healthcare and government services.
Meanwhile, the last forum, tagged as "Patuloy na Katatagan," was organized by the Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction Cluster and Security, Justice and Peace Cluster last July 17 at Davao City.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said that P10 billion will be invested to certain provinces which are vulnerable to climate change, hoping to provide investments for the development of agricultural and fisheries, environmental protection and management, and social welfare and livelihood, among others.
On the other hand, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stressed the importance of pursuing modernization and enhancement programs to increase the capabilities of the country's police and military forces.
As Duterte's alter egos presented the gains of the Cabinet clusters to the people, Cabinet Secretary Karl Nograles hoped the fora will provide Filipinos with a clear picture of the Duterte administration's efforts.
“Collectively, these Pre-SONA briefings represent an extended version of the President’s SONA, a means by which our people can take a closer look at the details of the programs being implemented by a government that recognizes its duty to inform the public about everyting the President and his administration are doing for and on their behalf to improve their lives,” Nograles said.
He then vowed that they will make a "greater impact" during the remaining three years of the Duterte presidency.
"We all work together in our respective departments and we will come up with something that would have a great impact on the people,” he added.
Duterte’s 4th SONA came on the heels of the controversial Recto Bank incident and the passage of the Iceland-backed resolution before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Despite the criticisms hurled at his administration, the President still continues to enjoy high approval and trust ratings from majority of Filipinos. He even acquired his highest satisfaction rating so far in June.