• Former Pres. Benigno Aquino III will skip the first SONA of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte
  • This would have been the first time that Aquino will be together with ex-Pres. Gloria Arroyo after four years
  • Arroyo was recently released from hospital arrest

All four living former presidents are invited to the very first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte, but it appears his immediate predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, has decided to skip the event on July 25.

This would have been the first time that former chief executives of the nation, Fidel Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Aquino would all be under the same roof in a state event like the SONA.

Arroyo was recently ordered released from detention after four years of being under hospital arrest in connection with the case involving the alleged misuse of intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

Arroyo’s lawyer, Raul Lambino, confirmed to the media that she will be attending Duterte’s SONA but it is unclear whether she will do so as a former head of state or as the current Representative of the Second District of Pampanga.

Should she decide to join the other former presidents, she would have been seated right next to Aquino at the middle gallery of the session hall as the seating arrangement would be according to their terms of succession to the Presidency.

“We just released the invitations. Na-invite sila, lahat ng former. Dito sa middle gallery, tabi-tabi, [They were all invited, all the former. Here in the gallery, side by side] unless they would advise they would sit on another area. She’s a member of Congress. Yes, mapapagitnaan siya ni Erap at PNoy then FVR [in between Erap and PNoy, then FVR],” House of Representatives Deputy Secretary General Artemio Adasa Jr. explained to ABS-CBN News.

However, the expected “awkward moment” between Arroyo and Aquino, whose government actively pushed for the prosecution of the former, would be averted as Aquino had already sent his regrets to the organizers.

This is the first time that President Duterte would be addressing Congress assembled in a joint session, as well as the rest of the country, to deliver his SONA, which is a requirement under the Constitution to mark the opening of the regular session of the legislature.