ILOILO City – People not vaccinated against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) or have not yet received booster shots should not be deprived of government services, stressed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Western Visayas.
Pandemic-related policies prohibiting them from entering government offices need not be discriminatory, according to CHR-6 director Atty. Jonnie Dabuco, “for as long as ang tawo pwede gihapon maka-access or makakuha sang serbisyo nga gusto ‘ya.”
The other day, this city’s Mayor Jerry Treñas announced that beginning Jan. 17, 2022 people with transactions at city hall will be required to present their COVID-19 Booster Cards at the building’s entrance. City government clients that have not received booster shots against COVID-19 would be barred from entering city hall.
According to Dabuco, the main concern is not the barring of unvaccinated persons from entering government offices but how to ensure that government services remain accessible to these people despite the prohibition.
“For instance, mabutang sang isa ka lugar nga indi ka na kinahanglan magsulod sa building mismo para maka-transact. Or pwede man online services,” said Dabuco.
He stressed: “Dapat indi ma-deprive ang aton pumoluyo sang government services just because waay sila nakapa-booster or waay gid nakapa-vaccine.”
But Dabuco noted that as far as government workers are concerned, guidelines are yet to be issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
Mayor Treñas said the city government is considering providing an area outside the city hall where the unvaccinated or those who have no booster shots yet can still transact business or avail themselves of city government services.
“It may not very convenient sa clients pero at least may option, indi sila totally ma-deprive government services,” said Dabuco.
As for the plan to bar unvaccinated individuals from entering malls, restaurants and places of worship, among others, Dabuco said private establishments or businesses have a wide leeway to implement their own restrictions if they want to.
“Pwede nila ma-regulate kon sin-o pwede nila pasudlon kag indi pasudlon – they can impose some restrictions kay ti private na ‘ya mo,” said Dabuco.
“Ang justification sina is they are not only protecting their clients but also workers,” he added.
Regarding private company employees, it is the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) that issues proper guidelines regarding the matter, said Dabuco.
But there could be exceptions, he stressed, such as those with medical conditions barring them from getting vaccinated even if they wanted to.
DOLE Region 6 regional director Sixto Rodriquez Jr. previously reiterated DOLE’s guidelines on the administration of COVID-19 jabs in workplaces.
“Covered establishments and employers shall endeavor to encourage their employees to get vaccinated. However, employees who refuse or fail to be vaccinated shall not be discriminated against in terms of tenure, promotion, training pay, and other benefits, among others, or terminated from employment. ‘No vaccine, no work’ policy shall not be allowed,” DOLE stressed.
According to Rodriguez, if there is no law mandating “no vaccination, no work” or “no jab, no pay” policies, “employers are not allowed to discriminate their employees for no vaccination.”
Particularly, DOLE’s issuance covers those with “employee-employer relationship.”
However, according to Rodriguez, in the absence of such a relationship, “then that’s the management’s prerogative. DOLE – or other government agencies – cannot intervene with.”
“They are the owners of the establishment. They have right to protect their employees,” he added.
“Pero kon mayroong employer-employee relationship at mayroong ganyang policy and the employees were not properly informed, they should be penalized,” Rodriguez said.
DOLE, meanwhile, encourages workers to get vaccinated – as anchored in its mandate of promoting a healthy working environment for employees.
But should an employee opt not to get vaccinated, “we encourage the employers not to discriminate,” said Rodriguez./PN