Sona: A trip down the memory lane-A A +A
Monday, July 25, 2011
USUALLY associated with pomp and gallant speeches, the State of the Nation Address (Sona) has been practiced by former and current occupants of Malacañang for more than seven decades.
President Benigno Aquino III, the 13th head of state to do so, addressed the 15th Congress as it embarked on its second regular session on Monday.
Traditionally, the President reports on the status of the country and may also propose certain proposals for legislation to Congress.
Article VII, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution mandates that “[t]he President shall address the Congress at the opening of its regular session.”
According to the Office of the President, the Sona began as an annual practice during the Commonwealth period under then President Manuel Quezon. He delivered the first Sona at the Legislative Building in Manila on June 16, 1936.
Changes in dates were made in the succeeding years with President Quezon delivering his last Sona on January 31, 1941, as he would already be in exile the following year due to the Japanese occupation.
Under the Japanese-sponsored republic, President Jose Laurel was able to deliver his first and only message before the special session of the National Assembly, led by the President's grandfather Speaker Benigno Aquino, Sr., on October 18, 1943.
But this was not included in the roster of Sonas after Laurel himself pointed out that the 1943 Constitution did not provide for a report to the legislature on the state of the nation.
After Quezon died in the United States in 1944 and the Japanese were crushed by allied troops, Sergio Osmeña Sr. took over the government and delivered the Sona on June 9, 1945 at the government’s provisional quarters at Lepanto Street in Manila.
Moreover, the Palace said Osmeña described the conditions prevailing in the Philippines during the Japanese period and acknowledgment of the assistance rendered by the guerrillas to the American forces in World War II.
He was only able to address Congress once after he lost to Senator Manuel Roxas in the 1946 presidential elections.
After this, the Sona was to be delivered on the fourth Monday of January, pursuant to Commonwealth Act No. 244, starting with President Roxas’ address to the First Congress on January 27, 1947.
Among Presidents, it was Elpidio Quirino who did not appear personally before Congress on January 23, 1950, when he was recuperating at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the United States.
He delivered his Sona to the joint session of Congress, beamed through a radio carrier station in the US and picked up by the local radio network at 10 a.m. just in time for the opening of the regular congressional session.
The January tradition was continued until 1972 by former President Ferdinand Marcos, who topped all leaders with 21 Sonas.
From 1973 to 1977, the Sona was delivered on the official anniversary of the imposition of martial law on September 21 of each year (official, because martial law was actually imposed on September 23, 1972).
And since Congress was abolished with the promulgation of the 1973 Constitution, these addresses were given before an assembly either in Malacañang or at the Luneta, except in 1976 when the address was given during the opening of the Batasang Bayan at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
President Marcos began delivering the Sona at the Batasang Pambansa in Quezon City on June 12, 1978 during the opening session of the Interim Batasan Pambansa.
Presidents Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo all delivered their Sona in the same venue.
From 1979 onwards, it was delivered on the fourth Monday of July, following the provisions of the 1973, and later, the 1987 Constitutions.
The only exceptions have been in 1983, when the Sona was delivered on January 17 to commemorate the anniversary of the ratification of the 1973 Constitution and the second anniversary of the lifting of martial law.
After President Marcos was ousted in 1986, the elder President Aquino refused to make a report to the nation on that year. She only did it during the restoration of Congress in 1987.
On July 26, 2010, the younger Aquino addressed the entire country in Filipino, a first in Sona history.
Both houses convened in a joint session and then direct a committee composed of members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to escort the President of the Philippines to the Session Hall to deliver his message.
The lifespan of each Congress begins and ends with the election of members of the House of Representatives for a term of three years.
It is subdivided, in turn, into three Regular Sessions, each corresponding to a calendar year. The Sona, then, also marks the opening of each Regular Session of Congress.
The 15th Congress will last until June 30, 2013. (Sunnex)