House Secretary General Reginald Velasco said attendance to this year’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) could be the biggest, based on the overwhelming confirmation they received from the invited guests.

“We may be opening some viewing rooms for the additional guests kasi overwhelming yung nag-confirm na pupunta sila dito (sa House) sa SONA. So far, we have received confirmation from over 2,000 guests, including House members and members of the Senate who will be joining the Joint Session to hear the SONA of the President,” Velasco said.

He said there are House members who have wished to tag along as many as 10 or even 20 guests with them to the SONA, which include their mayors, vice mayors, relatives and local leaders in their districts or provinces.

“Yung iba kasi may kasamang governor or relative na high-ranking official. We give them the courtesy.”

“Ang rule kasi namin, House member plus one usually yung asawa nila except for some. Yung iba kasi may kasamang governor or relative na high-ranking official. We give them the courtesy,” Velasco explained.

He said the plenary hall has 1,312 seats. Because of additional guests, he said 502 monobloc chairs will be added, bringing the total number of seats at the plenary hall to 1,814.

“We’re trying to have additional chairs doon kahit sa second and third galleries. Maglalagay kami ng additional monobloc doon just to accommodate these numerous requests coming from House members and other agencies,” Velasco said.

As a supplementary measure, he said the House is considering opening additional viewing rooms in the Batasan Complex for those who cannot be accommodated at the plenary hall.

Velasco pointed out that the hall will serve as a viewing room for more guests, from 200 last year to 300 this year, mostly seniors, PWDs and persons with medical conditions.

He said more people wish to attend the SONA because they really want to hear the President’s speech or they want to be involved in state affairs.

“Being invited to SONA is an honor.”

“Being invited to SONA is an honor,” Velasco stressed.

He said they have already been notified by former Vice Presidents Leni Robredo and Jejomar Binay that they cannot make it to this year’s SONA.

Velasco added that he is still waiting for confirmation from Vice President Sara Duterte.

“We are inviting all these former Presidents, former Vice Presidents, former Senate Presidents, former Speakers. And so far, we have not received confirmation from former President Duterte. We have much leeway doon sa mga VIPs. They can confirm or cancel at the last minute. That’s the privilege of the VIP guests. We cannot impose any deadline on the VIPs,” he said.

He said 47 ambassadors have confirmed their attendance, including China and the United States.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is the one coordinating with members of the diplomatic corps. He also reported that all the heads of constitutional commissions have confirmed attendance, such as the Commission on Elections and Commission on Audit.

SONA preparations shall be finalized at the fourth and final inter-agency coordination meeting on Monday (July 15) with a walk-through at the House of Representatives, which will cover the plenary hall, possibly the back entrance where the President will come in when he arrives at the House, as well as north and south lobbies where the lawmakers will pass through.

“We’re almost there. We will have our final inter-agency meeting,” Velasco said.

He added that the Presidential Security Command with the help of the House Sergeant at Arms and the Senate Sergeant at Arms are all collaborating to ensure the security not only of the President but all guests.

Velasco said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has earlier given instructions to accommodate all the guests.

As for Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, his directive to Velasco was to take care of House members, senators and all the guests, which means everything they need should be provided like security, comfort and smooth conduct of the SONA.

Marcos will deliver his third SONA on July 22.



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