'Wag makulit': Vaccination can't be made a requirement for work, says Bello

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III reiterated on Monday, Aug. 9 that employers can't make vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a condition or requirement for work.

DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III speaks during a virtual press briefing on Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. (Screengrab from Zoom meeting)

Bello, in a virtual press briefing, explained that this applies to employees who don't want to get the COVID-19 jab out of preference and those who can't avail of the jab due to the scarcity of supply in the country.

"As I told you before, there is no legal basis for the employers to compel their workers to be vaccinated. In fact it is a violation of the freedom of choice ng ating mga kababayan as guaranteed by the Constitution," Bello said.

"Moreso, it is not legal for any employer to require a worker to be vaccinated for him/ her to go to work. Walang legal basis yan (That has no legal basis), in fact it is an illegal policy," he added of the alleged "no vaccine, no work" policy.

The DOLE chief made similar statements last March when the national government had just barely launched its mass inoculation program against the deadly respiratory disease.

Since then, vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos has significantly dropped. Most observers believe that the main problem of the mass inoculation program is now all about vaccine supply.

On Monday, Bello was asked to respond to reports that several local employers have been preventing non-vaccinated employees from reporting for duty.

"Kulang pa tayo sa supply ng vaccine. Kaya logic demands na 'wag muna tayong magpilit na ma-vaccinate lahat (We lack vaccine supply. As such, logic demands that we shouldn't force the immediate vaccine of everybody)," he said.

Bello said employees may report to DOLE hotlines 1348 and 1349 should they be halted from reporting for work due to being not vaccinated.

"You know our hotlines, let us know. We will file administrative sanctions against them (employers)," he said.