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Short, sweet this one

Elmer N. Manuel @tribunephl_lmer

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With President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SoNA) just around the bend, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo on Tuesday revealed that the Chief Executive has vowed to keep his speech “short.”

In a statement, Panelo said the President disclosed that his audience can expect a short speech from him. It will be Mr. Duterte’s fourth SoNA.

“I asked him about the SoNA this morning. He said, ‘Oh, it will be short,’” said Panelo, adding that the President most likely would not touch on his administration’s accomplishments anymore.

Panelo explained the administration’s achievements have been presented in the three pre-SoNA events conducted by the different clusters of his Cabinet – of which the last of the series is scheduled today in Davao City.

“There already have been pre-SoNA events. I don’t think the President would have to repeat them,” Panelo said.

Previously, the President’s first SoNA in 2016 lasted for an hour and 34 minutes, while it exceeded two hours in 2017, and last year’s speech was the shortest at 45 minutes.

Duterte also earlier said that he would “educate” his critics regarding his stance on the country’s maritime territorial dispute with China.

The President will deliver his SoNA before a joint session of Congress amid allegations of human rights abuses under his administration and his seeming soft stand on China despite the neighbor country’s continuing military activities in the West Philippine Sea, including parts of the disputed waterway within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Meanwhile, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Major General Guillermo Eleazar also on Tuesday advised protesters not to wear jackets or bring backpacks.

In a statement, the NCRPO chief said that police would coordinate with the leaders of the protesters regarding their request which is connected to ensuring peace and order during Duterte’s SoNA.

“We discourage it,” Eleazar said. “Actually, we are urging the public not to bring any backpacks because we will prohibit them for security concerns.”

“As much as possible, we call on them not to wear jackets or bring backpacks, so that we can minimize any security threats that may be present during those rallies,” he added.

Eleazar noted that jackets as well as backpacks could be used to hide vests which may be used to perpetrate bombings, although he admitted that this is not fully enforceable as authorities may not inspect each and every protester during the SoNA.

The NCRPO chief said authorities are expecting more or less 15,000 protesters.

Eleazar added that 15,000 policemen and force multipliers would be deployed in the whole Metro Manila. Of that number, 9,000 policemen and force multipliers will be assigned in Quezon City.

Earlier, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Oscar Albayalde disclosed that his command center is ready for the President’s SoNA, saying that they are preparing to implement a security plan that also allowed for the participation of citizens in the important national event.

Albayalde noted that the NCRPO —together with the National Support Units – are prepared for their security plans.

“The Philippine National Police has already completed all the security plans and preparations ahead of the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday, 22 July,” said Albayalde, adding that the PNP had monitored no threat to the SoNA.

Meantime, the House of Representatives will implement a complete lockout policy from 19 to 21 July as part of the security measures in preparation for the SoNA. Under this lockout policy, employees and non-employees of the House who have no official business inside the chamber shall not be allowed inside the House complex.

House acting Secretary-General Dante Roberto Maling, in an advisory, also listed reminders and security requirements for the SoNA, which will be delivered at the Joint Session of Congress.

It also provided details on the issuance of color-coded pre-SoNA security lockout stickers; issuance of SoNA 2019 ID cards; issuance of car passes/parking restrictions; and other pre-SoNA information and reminders.

Maling also revealed that the SoNA will cost roughly P4.7 million this year, P200,000 lower than the P4.9 million spent in 2018.

Maling also explained the expenses will cover the usual expenses for the SoNA, such as supplies, materials and food and they expect around 1,500 attendees – the maximum seating capacity at the House.