FORMER President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now representative of Pampanga's second district, left for Hong Kong on the eve of the first State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Benigno Aquino III.

But the Palace remained mum on the move of the former chief executive, saying it could not compel the lady lawmaker to attend the Sona.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Arroyo has accompanied her husband, Jose Miguel, for a scheduled medical checkup.

"The decision of Congresswoman Arroyo not to attend is her own and she is entitled with that," said Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

President Aquino earlier said that part of his Sona will be revelation of the problems he inherited from the past administration.

But the Palace said, "The Sona is not for the former President but for all the Filipino people. Whether the former President is there or not, the entire country will know the true state of the nation."

Some of the topics the President will include are anti-corruption and poverty alleviation programs, as well as measures to address extrajudicial killings. About 70 percent of the speech will be in Filipino intended to be delivered in 30 to 35 minutes.

It was written by Manolo Quezon and Ricky Carandang, two of the members of the President's communications group, and Presidential Management Staff chief Julia Abad.

Lacierda, however, said there will be changes in the speech depending on the President's preference.

The President's schedule

Based on the program released by Malacañang, President Aquino is scheduled to go to the House of Representative at Batasan Complex in Quezon City at 2:45 p.m.

The President will make a choice whether to use the presidential limousine or his chopper depending on the weather condition. He is expected to arrive at the House at 3:30 p.m.

Upon his arrival, he will be welcomed by Armed Forces Chief Ricardo David, House Sergeant-at-Arms Lieutenant Colonel Isabelito Perfecto Flores and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Retired General Jose Balajadia through a military arrival honors.

The Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives will then receive Aquino.

The President, with the Senate President to his right and the Speaker to his left, followed by the Senate and House Sergeant-at-Arms, the AFP Chief of Staff and the President's Aide-de-Camp will pass through the Batasan Rear Entrance Lobby.

After the foyer honors, the President will be received by the Joint Congressional Welcoming Committee led by the Senate President Pro-Tempore, House Deputy Speakers, House and Senate Majority Floor Leaders, House and Senate Minority Floor Leaders, Senate Secretary Emma Reyes, House Secretary-General Marilyn Yap and other members of the Joint Committee (from the House & Senate) to notify the President of the joint session.

After the brief arrival greetings and handshakes, the President will be ushered to the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO).

The members of the Joint Welcoming Committee will then leave and proceed to the Session Hall and wait for the President's arrival.

At 3:55 p.m., President Aquino will proceed to the session hall.

The President, accompanied by the aide-de-camp, passes through the South lounge, the South hallway and enters through the main entrance of the session hall.

The House Secretary-General will announce the arrival of the President.

The President will pass through the Congressional honor guards lining up at each side of the center aisle as the band plays the entrance hymn for the President.

The Senate President and the Speaker of the House meet the President at the side lower rostrum through the left staircase.

Then, the President is accompanied to the upper rostrum. The President, the Senate President and the House Speaker take their respective seats.

At 4 p.m., the regular session of the 15th Congress will be formally opened.

The Senate President calls for the joint session to order by banging the gavel followed by the call to order by the House Speaker.

After the joint session of Congress' call to order, the ceremony will begin with Philippine National Anthem by the House of Representatives Chorale.

It will be followed by Legislator's Prayer (Panalangin Para Sa Kongreso) by invited priests and ministers.

The House Speaker will introduce President Aquino, who will then proceed to the Lower Center Podium for his Sona delivery.

After his speech, the first joint session will adjourn.

The President, escorted by the Senate President and the House Speaker, will descend through the right staircase to the center aisle and depart the session hall.

The President will be ushered to the Presidential Holding Room while the Senate and House members, Cabinet Members, Diplomatic Corps, top government officials and guests proceed to the South Lobby for the Cocktail Reception.

Then, the President joins the Cocktail Reception at the South Lobby where he is expected to leave the House at 6 p.m.

The Inter-agency Task Force Sona has assured that all preparations for the event are on track.

House Secretary General Marilyn Barua-Yap said the 287-member House of Representatives is expected to elect their house speaker in the morning. The Senate will also do the same electing their senate president.

The HREP's three-gallery levels plenary will accommodate some 1,700 seats for invited guests of the 287 House members and the 24 Senators seated at the plenary hall.

The guests will include the members of the President's official family and his personal guests, members of the diplomatic community, Justices of the Supreme Court, local government officials, and the business sector, among others.

The Sona inter-agency task force is composed of officials and representatives from the Office of the President/Malacanang (OPS/RTVM/NBN), the AFP, PSG, PNP, Senate, House of Representatives, other concerned agencies and LGUs. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)