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State of the Nation Address (SONA)

The State of the Nation Address (SONA) is a constitutional obligation and yearly tradition, wherein the chief executive reports on the status of the country, unveils the government’s agenda for the coming year, and proposes to Congress certain legislative measures. Article VII, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution states that,

“[T]he President shall address the Congress at the opening of its regular session.”

Moreover, Article VI, Section 15 prescribes that the Congress “shall convene once every year on the fourth Monday of July for its regular session.”

The President of the Philippines appears before Congress upon its invitation, for which purpose a joint session is held in the Session Hall of the House of Representatives. Congress issues tickets, and all preparations are undertaken with Congress as the official host. Eighty (80) SONAs have been delivered thus far.

On Monday morning, both the House of Representatives and the Senate hold their respective sessions in their respective chambers and elect their officials. Thereafter, a concurrent resolution is filed stating that both chambers are ready to hear the address of the President. Sessions of both Houses are suspended.

In the afternoon, the President is met at Batasang Pambansa, either planeside or carside, by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Sergeants-at-Arms of both Houses of Congress. The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces will then escort the President past the Honor Guard. At this point, the military escort of the President is relieved of duty and replaced by the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives, symbolizing the independence of the Legislature. The President is then escorted to the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO), which serves as the chief executive’s office in the House Representatives. The leaders of both chambers traditionally pay a courtesy call on the President in the PLLO.

A Welcoming Committee, appointed by and among peers in both Chambers of Congress, accompany the President into the Session Hall. Upon his entry to the Session Hall, the Speaker of the House announces the arrival of the President, who takes his position between the Senate President and the Speaker of the House. The Joint Session of Congress is thereafter called to order, followed by the singing of the national anthem and the invocation. After which, the President descends to the rostrum to deliver the SONA.

After the message of the President, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate close the Joint Session of Congress for their respective Chambers.

SONIA Procedure:

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The First Philippine Republic borrowed from the European parliamentary tradition, wherein the head of state ceremonially opened sessions of the National Assembly. According to the 1899 Constitution, the President of the Philippines has the duty to open, suspend, and close Congress. The Constitution also gave the President the power to communicate to Congress through messages to be read to the National Assembly (La Asamblea Nacional) by Secretaries of Government.

On September 15, 1898, President Emilio Aguinaldo delivered an address during the Inaugural Session of the Assembly of Representatives, more popularly known as the Malolos Congress. This speech was not a SONA because it was merely a congratulatory message to the Assembly instead of a constitutionally mandated report to the Legislature. The Malolos Congress only had one formal opening. By May 1899, it had been dissolved because of the unfavorable war situation.

Average SONA Length:

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On November 25, 1935, Manuel Quezon delivered the first ever SONA before the National Assembly, in which he focused on the implementation of a well-grounded system of National Defense.

With regards to most number of SONAs delivered, Ferdinand Marcos gets the top spot. Because of his 21-year reign, Marcos surpassed all other presidents with a total of 20.

He was also the only chief executive who didn’t deliver SONAs in front of Congress (1973,1974, 1975, 1976, and 1977).

The president who gave the least number of SONAs is Sergio Osmeña, who delivered only one.


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