House set for SONA 2018

Photo Release 13 July 2018 SONA 2018 DIRECTOR. Award-winning movie and film director Joyce Bernal on Thursday conducted an ocular visit of the House of Representatives where she will be directing the third State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Duterte set on July 23. Bernal studied and took shots of the different areas of the plenary session hall. She also dropped by the Inter-Agency Task Force meeting and briefly talked to House Secretary-General Atty. Cesar Strait Pareja, Chairperson of the SONA 2018 Steering Committee. / R. B. Bundang/ M. Suguitan/ G. Manalo

 The House of Representatives is all set for the third State of the Nation Address of President Duterte on July 23 with security measures and program preparations in place, according to House officials.

 In a pre-SONA briefing on Thursday, House Secretary-General Atty. Cesar Strait Pareja, Chairman of the SONA 2018 Steering Committee, assured the House is prepared for any eventuality this year.

 “Just to assure you, based on what we have been doing before, we prepare for the worst but we expect the best. We hope for the best, but we are ready in case anything happens,” Pareja said.

 Pareja said the House Secretariat and the Senate have been preparing and are now ready for the most anticipated annual event of Congress, which is the SONA and the opening of the Third Regular Session.

 House Sergeant-at-Arms (Ret) Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali said they are more prepared this year in securing the President and the First Family and the other VIPs. He said they have learned through the years on dealing with security problems and challenges.

 In addition, Detabali said they are more confident the forces available to them, their equipment and experience in Marawi will benefit the forces on standby for the SONA.

 Likewise, he mentioned a lot of partner agencies will not only help in traffic control and other concerns connected with the SONA.

“We are confident that we will be more coordinated and sure to be very accessible to any of our stakeholders and our VIPs,” said Detabali.

 Like last year, Detabali said they imposed a lockdown period, meaning three days before the SONA only those who have access to work in the House of Representatives to deliver supplies and work on the other facilities preparing for the SONA will be allowed access to the institution.

 “And as I’ve said, we have more agencies, forces and equipment that can deal with any emergencies now. We are actually doing exercises so that we can deal with these problems,” said Detabali.

 Moreover, still available are the equipment such as Xray machines, K9 units and other equipment that are not only coming from Congress but also from different agencies which are contributing to the security aspect of the SONA preparations.

 “We have more assets and available units, equipment and techniques. These we’ve learned also from the experience in Marawi and we have other agencies which have developed their capability to deal with emerging problems especially on terrorism and sabotage. But we do not see any of these happening. But just the same, we are preparing for these,” Detabali said.

 On security preparations in case the President once again talks to rallyists, Detabali said they have been talking to the presidential units, especially to their officers, and for the sake of the President and the country, urge them to advise him not to repeat what he did last year.

 “But his heart goes to accepting these people not really agreeing to what he’s doing, so he might invite them – the leaders might be invited after the SONA (here in Congress). That is what we are preparing.  But of course, according to the police they are also preparing for anything,” said Detabali.

 Meanwhile, Pareja said they have already sent Vice President Leni Robredo an invitation. Right now, Pareja said they are preparing for her arrival with the usual protocol. “Now, if she declines later on, we can’t force her to go. But then I think, we already sent her invitation,” he said.

 On the number of expected guests, Pareja said there are around 1,500 seats in the plenary hall, but then they added some seats, up to the maximum, which is another 1,500 seats.

 “ So we just doubled the number of seats, based on the limit allowed by our Bureau of Fire Protection. They do not want to crowd the area which could be hazardous also to our guests,” said Pareja.

 There will be some changes in the program according to Pareja. For instance, he said there are discussions that the singing of the National Anthem would be done by a choir from Tagum City, homeplace of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. He said the Speaker suggested the choir maybe invited to depart from the usual practice and to showcase the local talents.

 Meanwhile, Senate Secretary Atty. Myra Marie Villarica thanked the House of Representatives for its efforts in preparing for the yearly SONA.

 “As always, we are grateful for the efforts of the House of Representatives led by its Secretary General, Atty. Cesar Pareja. As always, they are the lead in the preparations for the President’s State of the Nation Address, and we at the Senate, with our full contingent, we’re always here to support and to provide whatever assistance we can. We are almost always guests here of the House of Representatives, and so we thank the SecGen for that. And thank you also for everybody, for being here and showing interest in the preparations for SONA,” said Villarica./ R. B. Bundang




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