By the numbers: SONA through the years
Almost a month after his inauguration, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is set to deliver his first presidential State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 25.
As part of their constitutional obligation, each Philippine president has made it a tradition to deliver a report on the country’s current state, propose legislative measures to Congress, and disclose the administration’s agenda for the year.
Before the newly appointed chief executive commences with his address, let's take a look back at some of the most memorable SONA events in numbers throughout Philippine history.
Presidential speeches since 1935: 83
A total of 83 State of the Nation Addresses have been delivered since the term of Manuel L. Quezon down to that of Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who stepped down from office last June. Marcos Jr's first SONA will be the 84th overall.
Though the first Philippine president was Emilio Aguinaldo, the first SONA to ever commence was during Quezon’s administration, which happened during a special session of the first National Assembly.
His term was followed by Jose P. Laurel, whose address did not fall under the SONA roster given how the 1943 Constitution gave no report to the legislature. Meanwhile, the rest of the 13 presidents that came after Laurel were all able to deliver their SONA.
These presidents were Sergio Osmeña, Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino, Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., Corazon Aquino, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno “PNoy” or “Noynoy” Aquino III, and Rodrigo Duterte.
Most and least number of SONAs: 20 and 1
Speaking of delivered SONAs, the president who gave most of these speeches was Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the father of the country’s current chief executive.
He delivered a total of 20 SONAs within his 1965 to 1986 term— the longest one yet in Philippine history. Meanwhile, Sergio Osmeña was only able to address the nation once. He comes second after Quezon in delivering the speech during a special session.
Arroyo follows Marcos Sr. with nine speeches. Next on the list is Quezon with seven SONAs delivered, followed by Ramos, PNoy, and Duterte with six each. With five presidential speeches, Quirino and Cory Aquino come next. Meanwhile, Magsaysay, Garcia, and Macapagal addressed the nation with four speeches each. Roxas and Estrada gave three, and we all know who comes last with his one and only SONA.
Longest SONA ever recorded: 29,335 words
SONAs are typically lengthy and can take many hours to complete because they cover a wide range of topics and achievements, at least for the majority of presidents.
But did you know that the longest SONA speech ever delivered in history was 29,335 words long and given by Marcos Sr. in 1969?
On the other hand, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo delivered the shortest speech in 2005, with only 1,556 words.
In terms of word count, the late former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III formerly held the record for the longest SONA speech since EDSA People Power in 1986, clocking in at 11,700 words in his 2015 address.
However, Duterte's sixth and final SONA in 2021 which lasted two hours, 45 minutes and 39 seconds is the longest one post-EDSA beating Noynoy's record of two hours and 15 minutes. Prior to Duterte’s speech, the Palace said the President’s final SONA would only last around an hour.
SONAs not delivered in Batasan: 34
When a head of state delivers his or her SONA to the people, all eyes are on the Batasang Pambansa Complex. But prior to that, our previous presidents delivered their SONAs in the Legislative Building, which is now home to the National Museum of Fine Arts. This is also where the current president took his oath of office.
The building was used for SONA 30 times—between Quezon's First National Assembly and Marcos Sr.’s Seventh Congress—before the unicameral congress transferred to Batasang Pambansa.
Following Manila's liberation, a schoolhouse on Lepanto Street was used three times for SONA. SONAs were also held at three other places during Marcos Sr.’s second term: Rizal Park, the PICC Quirino Grandstand, and Malacañan Palace.
Years without SONA: 4
There were no presidential speeches for three years under Jose P. Laurel from 1942 to 1944 due to the Japanese Occupation and World War II. After the end of the EDSA Revolution, former president Cory Aquino—who had just assumed office at the time—skipped her SONA in 1986, according to Malacañang records.
On July 27, 1987, Corazon Aquino delivered her first-ever SONA at Batasang Pambansa/RTVMalacañang
President who used “full” Tagalog SONAs: 1
Among the 14 presidents that came before him, the late president Benigno Aquino III was the first and only president to use Tagalog in his six presidential speeches. He was also known for his famous catchphrases, "Kayo ang Boss ko" and “Bawal ang wang-wang”.
PNoy’s 1st SONA in Batasang Pambansa in 2010/RTVMalacañang
Curse words: 40+ (and no longer counting)
If the late Benigno Aquino III spoke in the Filipino language for every SONA, Rodrigo Duterte delivered his with foul language. Every once in a while during his speeches, Duterte would drop some curse words and insults, and these are not inclusive to SONA moments alone.
No one was exempted from his cursing and inappropriate remarks— not even God nor the Pope. This fact may no longer be surprising given how he has already mastered normalizing expletives in between ramblings. Contrary to critics who cannot brush off such behavior, supporters see no problem in their Tatay Digong’s natural communication style.
His 2017 SONA was his most expletive-filled speech that had 28 bad words. His first (2016) and third (2018) SONA surprised many with the absence of profanities, but in 2019, the former chief executive was back at it again as he was recorded to have cursed seven times. Meanwhile, there were at least four bad words during his fifth and sixth SONA.
In 2016, he expressed that his mouth “is not the problem” but has repeatedly promised to avoid spewing profane words. In 2018, he also disapproved of Baguio’s Anti-Profanity Ordinance and justified cursing to fall under freedom of speech.
Number of protestors in ‘historic,’ peaceful SONA rally: 30,000
Duterte’s first SONA back in 2016 saw a “historic” march with 30,000 protestors. The “historic” description was from the comment of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., who at the time said that the former president respected their right to free assembly and expression.
The march was reported to have been one of the most peaceful protests to date during a SONA. This was given the lack of effigies destroyed and set on fire as well as the absence of violent occurrences.
The rally saw the first six-panel mural “Portraits of Peace” that took the place of effigies. This was made by progressive artists to showcase the masses’ expectations from the Duterte administration.
According to a Bulatlat report, the 30,000 figure was comprised of around 8,000 indigenous people and peasants, students, progressive leaders, and workers among others. The report also noted that leaders were invited to Congress for the first time.
Research compiled by Taffy Bernales and Jhon Dave Cusipag