What to know about Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s first SONA

The Philippines’ newly elected president will give his first report on the state of the nation later on Monday, and lay out his policy agenda for the coming year.

A portrait of Ferdinand Marcos Jr
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr will deliver his first SONA on Monday in a speech that will be closely watched [File: Aaron Favila/AP Photo]

Ferdinand Marcos Jr will give his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) as the leader of the Philippines on Monday.

The 64-year-old son of the disgraced dictator Ferdinand Marcos won a landslide victory in the race for the presidency in May, easily beating off a challenge from then Vice President Leni Robredo.

He took the oath of office on June 30, surrounded by his family including his 93-year-old mother Imelda Marcos.

Critics have accused Marcos Jr of rewriting history to gloss over the abuses of his father’s time in office and polish his family’s image after they were forced from power in a mass uprising in 1986.

Marcos Jr, popularly known as Bongbong, takes over as the economy struggles with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and rising prices. He has promised to create more jobs and deliver a better future in a country where nearly a quarter of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

Here’s what to expect:

What is SONA?

  • Under the Philippines’ 1987 Constitution, the president delivers the SONA each year on the last Monday in July.
  • The address assesses the state of the country, lays out the government’s agenda for the coming year, and suggests priority legislation.
  • The government has 30 days after the SONA to submit its proposed budget to Congress.
A woman wearing a dress made of rice sacks walks in a protest calling on the Philippines president to lower rice prices
Filipinos are calling on the government to tackle the rising cost of food with these protesters marching earlier this month to urge the president, who is also in charge of agriculture, to bring down the price of rice [Jam Sta Rosa/AFP]

What is planned for the occasion?

  • The SONA will take place at the newly renovated Batasang Pambansa Complex in Quezon City, in a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • The speech will be delivered in person for the first time since 2019.
  • Ferdinand Marcos Jr is expected to start making his address at about 4pm (09:00 GMT).
  • Some 1,365 people, including former presidents, will be in the audience.
  • A choir from the Ilocos region, the Marcos family stronghold, will sing the national anthem.

What will be in the speech?

  • Presidential Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez told reporters on Friday that Marcos Jr was writing his speech himself.
  • The address is expected to focus on economic policy and the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the resumption of in-person teaching, according to Rodriguez.
  • There is also expected to be a focus on food security.
  • Critics say they would like to hear Marcos Jr elaborate on his broadly sketched goal of “unity”, the major theme of his campaign for office.

Are any protests planned?

  • Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan – an alliance of civil society groups) has been allowed to proceed with a rally on Monday morning after appealing against a police decision to deny them permission to protest.
  • Police have said anti-Marcos rallies can take place at three locations: University of the Philippines Diliman campus, Quezon Memorial Circle and the compound of the Commission on Human Rights.
  • Marcos Jr supporters are also planning an event, including live music. That will take place close to the Batasang Pambansa.
police in the philippines wear riot gear (with the word 'pulis' on their vests) as they prepare for Monday's SONA address
Security during the SONA will be tight with more than 21,000 officers expected to be deployed [Jam Sta Rosa/AFP]

What about security?

  • The National Police’s National Capital Region Police Office has said more than 21,000 officers will be deployed for the event.
  • The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has announced a no-fly zone in the sky above the Batasang Pambansa Complex from Saturday afternoon until Monday evening.
  • A gun ban was imposed in the Metro Manila area on Friday and will remain in place until July 27.
Source: Al Jazeera