Several lawyers and the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) in Northern Mindanao have questioned a government move to require COVID-19 vaccination cards from citizens, arguing that such policy cannot be based on what the government’s coronavirus task force says.
“The IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) is an advisory council. What should be done is for Congress to pass a law to make it clear,” said lawyer Nicandro Borja, ALU-TUCP director for operations in Northern Mindanao.
They raised the issue as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Northern Mindanao announced that employers in the region would be allowed beginning December 1 to require their workers to get inoculated or, if not, ask them to take RT-PCR tests before they can go to their workplaces.
In Iligan City, former city prosecutor Samson Dajao challenged a similar move by Mayor Celso Regencia who issued an executive order that required vaccination cards from residents who are going out.
Dajao, who represents a group, filed a petition before a regional court, seeking the suspension of Regencia’s order that took effect as early as November 16, reported the Mindanao Gold Star Daily.
Based on Regencia’s order, even public utility vehicle drivers and market vendors cannot work, people cannot commute, and neither can they transact business with the government in the city without proof of vaccination.
DOLE technical director for Northern Mindanao Atheneus Vasallo said unvaccinated workers may not be laid off but based on IATF Resolution 148-B, workers in areas where there is sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines are required to get inoculated before they can perform their on-site work tasks.
Vesallo said those who opt to remain unvaccinated may undergo RT-PCR tests once every two weeks at their own expense.
“This is in direct conflict with the DOLE’s order that vaccination is not a requirement for work. The IATF resolution is illegal,” Borja said. He likened the move to ramming the IATF resolution down the throat of workers.
On Wednesday, November 24, Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno said the city government was identifying its unvaccinated employees, and “may move towards requiring them to take RT-PCR tests.”
“But it should be done right,” Moreno said.
Lawyer Jose Edgardo Uy, Cagayan de Oro’s Regulatory and Compliance Board chairman, said he hoped the matter reaches the Supreme Court so it can decide whether to stop or proceed with the “no vaccine, no entry” policy.
Cagayan de Oro-based lawyer Santiago Goking Jr. said the government was already making a distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated citizens.
“IATF has no power to enact a law. Neither can its resolution stand as a valid order against workers without due process,” Goking said, adding that the policy is unconstitutional.
“The vaccinated can still transmit the virus. So, why make a distinction?” Goking asked. – With reports from Herbie Gomez / Rappler