No security threat to SONA

House of Representatives
In full dress exercise Presidential Security Group soldiers climb above the rear entrance of the House of Representatives to secure President Rodrigo Duterte during his State of the Nation Address on July 22. Photos by Ver Noveno

THERE are no security threats to the 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte.

This was assured by House of Representatives Sergeant-at-Arms MGen. (Ret.) Romeo Prestoza, following  preparation and ocular inspection inside Batasan Complex.

President Duterte will deliver his 4th SONA on July 22 in front of more than 3,000 guests, government officials and members of the diplomatic corps.

“When it comes to security threats, wala pa namang substantial, meaning talagang wala pang nakarating na actual na threat,” Prestoza said.

According to Prestoza, the bombing in Mindanao was taken into consideration as the House prepares its security measures for the day of the SONA.

“Well part of it kasi, sa experience ko kasi I’ve been an intelligence officer for 27 years, those things talagang kinoconsider namin. Hindi namin pinapabayaan, tinitingnan namin,” he said.

However, Prestoza said that despite an absence of perceived threats, the House has “a very good coordination” with relevant intelligence units in evaluating any risks to the House or President Duterte during the SONA.

“That’s why we initiate ‘yung direct na contact with the NICA (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency), ISAFP (Intelligence Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines) and other intelligence units to see kung meron talagang connection or possibility na umabot dito. But as of this time, wala naman kaming nakikita pa,” Prestoza added.

He also emphasized that the House security is prepared and well-equipped to handle security issues.

“At saka if ever, nakaprepare naman kami. We have extensive trainings and seminars to include simulation exercises and tabletop exercises para in case na meron nga, we would be prepared. Even ‘yung protocols, when it comes to emergencies ginagawa din namin. So like what I’ve said, when it comes to threat, wala naman kaming substantial na nakikita na threat,” Prestoza explained.

He also clarified that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) shall be responsible for directing signal jammers on SONA day, based on their assessment of the proceedings.

House Acting Secretary General Dante Roberto Maling also stated that it is business as usual in terms of the House preparations. He said that preparation activities remain on track and are the same as in previous years.

“Basically, the preparation has been the same through the years except siguro for very minor details, mga maliliit na arrangements lang. It doesn’t really deviate from what has been happening from the past years,” Maling said.

Less expensive

This year’s SONA will be less expensive compared to last year, Maling said.

The House of Representatives is spending at least P4.7 million for the SONA of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 22, he said.

This is a bit smaller compared to last year’s P4.9 million.

Romantic comedy director Bb. Joyce Bernal will still be directing this year’s important event and her service is free.

Maling, Chairperson of the Task Force SONA 2019, said that based on the latest figure, the House will spend around P4.7 million for the usual expenses such as supplies and materials, food and the usual SONA-related activities.

“Yung latest figure po namin is P4.7 something million. Last year po it was P4.9 (million),” Maling said.

As for the preparations and security for the SONA, Maling said that except for very minor details and arrangements, preparations for SONA have been the same through the years.

He likewise confirmed that invitations to the SONA have already been sent out, the guest list including the diplomatic corps, members of the Executive like the Cabinet Secretaries, former Cabinet members, local government officials, invitees of House Members and former presidents of the country.

Maling explained that the exact number of invitations sent out do not deviate from the number of seats available inside the session hall.