Once a year, something you’ll observe when you visit the Philippines, the country’s President appear before a joint session of Congress. As you may know, and as we’ve discussed before, the Philippine government is divided into three branches for checks-and-balance.
Incidentally, this year 2010, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is scheduled to deliver his first SONA on 26 July 2010, at 4:00 p.m. (see full text of 2010 SONA; see also PGMA’s SONA for 2009, 2008 and 2007). And it’s not a holiday, if anyone cares to ask (see 2010 holidays).
This is a constitutional duty. The 1987 Constitution (Article VII, Section 23) provides: “The President shall address the Congress at the opening of its regular session.” During the SONA, the President reports to Congress and the nation about the current state of the Philippines, the problems and prospects, and the path plans to address these problems and maximize the prospects. It’s up to the President how general or specific he/she wants to get.
The speech is delivered at the cavernous plenary session hall of the House of Representatives, with members commonly called “congressmen”. The 2010 elections ushered in a star-studded House: former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former First Lady Imelda Marcos, world-famous boxer Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, actress Lani Mercado and TV personality Lucy Torres-Gomez. The members of the other house of Congress, the Senate, go out of their office in Pasay City to attend the joint session in the House of Representatives, located at Batasan Hills, Quezon City.
Rallies and protest actions are mainstays of this event. Some are expressing their legitimate grievances to government, knowing that there’s a maximum exposure — the President is present, the legislators are also present, and, more importantly, all the media are present. Others just want to get noticed.
I’m not sure if people pay attention or take time to know what the President has said. How about you?