The history behind the President's SONA

By Anna Valmero

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA— The annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) traces its roots  to the Commonwealth era during the time of former President Manuel L. Quezon.

Quezon delivered the first SONA on June 16, 1936 at the Legislative Building in Manila. Previously, July 16 marks the opening of the National Assembly under Commonwealth Act No. 17.

As it was before, the SONA allows the President to recommend national priorities to the legislature based on Article VII, Section 5 of the 1935 Constitution.

Meanwhile, the SONA is mandated under Article VII, Section 23 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “[t]he President shall address the Congress at the opening of its regular session,” held every July.

July 25 marks the Second Regular Session of the 15th Congress and the second time President Benigno Aquino III's will deliver a SONA.

For a time, though, the SONA was held every January pursuant to Commonwealth Act 244, which moved the National Assembly to every fourth Monday of the year. From 1938 to 1972, the SONA was held every January, as chronicled by the The Official Gazette.

The late President Jose P. Laurel of the Second Philippine Republic delivered his first and only message on October 18, 1943 before the special session of the National Assembly led by Speaker Benigno Aquino, Sr., grandfather of the current president.

The Congress of the Philippines, now a bicameral body, convened for the first time on June 9, 1945 since the election in 1941, after the Japanese were overthrown. President Sergio Osmeña addressed the lawmakers at their provisional quarters at Lepanto Street in Manila.

The other president who delivered his speeches at Lepanto was the late President Manuel Roxas, who delivered the last SONA under the Commonwealth government on June 3, 1946. President Roxas also made the first SONA under the Philippine Republic on January 27, 1947, after Commonwealth Act 244.

Since 1949, the SONA was delivered at the reconstructed Legislative Building except when the late President Elpidio Quirino delivered his address from the United States on January 1950 while recuperating at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

During the Martial Law era under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the SONA was delivered on the anniversary of the Martial Law on September 21. The SONA was delivered before an assembly (not lawmakers since Congress was abolished) in Malacañang Palace or at Luneta (Rizal Park).

President Marcos started delivering the SONA at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City on June 12, 1978 during the opening session of the Interim Batasan Pambansa.

Since 1979, the SONA was delivered every fourth Monday of July under the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, except on two occassions. The first was on January 17, 1983 during the anniversary of the 1973 Constitution and in 1986 when the late former President Cory Aquino did not deliver any SONA.

It was the elder Aquino who started the tradition of delivering the SONA at the Session Hall of the House of Representatives in the Batasan Pambansa Complex in Quezon City.

On July 26, 2010, her son, President Benigno S. Aquino III, delivered his first SONA, touted as the only SONA delivered entirely in Filipino.

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