Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Saturday, Oct. 23, reiterated that under the law, business owners cannot turn down job applicants simply because they are unvaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Guevarra stressed that Republic Act No. 115251, the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, “expressly states that vaccination cards shall not be a mandatory requirement for employment (both for recruitment and maintenance of employment), among others.”
Last Wednesday, Guevarra warned against violations of Section 12 of RA 115251 which states that “the vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar government transaction purposes.”
The reiteration was made by Guevarra as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that vaccination against COVID-19 can be made a requisite for employment “since there is no employer-employee relationship yet.”
But the DOLE admitted that there is no law that compels mandatory vaccination.
In an answer to a query posed by journalists covering the Department of Justice (DOJ), Guevarra said:
“I really regret that I have to disagree with my dear colleague Secretary Bello on this matter. The subject IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) resolution placing the NCR (National Capital Region) under Alert Level 3 and authorizing certain establishments to open their doors to customers or clients simply provides that they may do so as long as their staff or employees are all vaccinated.
“This means that these establishments should encourage their staff or employees to get vaccinated, otherwise they may not be allowed to open for business.
“But they may not compel their employees or staff to get themselves vaccinated, because there is a law, the ‘COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, that expressly states that vaccination cards shall not be a mandatory requirement for employment (both for recruitment and maintenance of employment), among others.”
Guevarra said the issue has not been discussed in the IATF because last Thursday’s, Oct. 21, meeting was cancelled and reset.
“We could have clarified this issue during that meeting. But unless the 2021 Vaccination Act is amended, or its IRR (implementing rules and regulations) clarified, that is the existing law on the matter that no Executive issuance can modify,” he stressed.
He assured that the issue will be discussed. “I’ll discuss it more thoroughly with Secretary Bello,” he added.
Earlier, several business groups had recommended the employment only of persons who have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Guevarra said the government is not closing its doors to their proposal.