Sharing his take as a lawyer, President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday he thinks it's legal for companies to refuse hiring of unvaccinated job seekers even as COVID-19 vaccination remains voluntary in the Philippines.
Duterte said employers could aruge that a vaccine before hiring policy was meant to safeguard their workers and investments.
"Kung hindi ka bakunado, hindi ka tanggapin sa trabaho. I think that is legal. You have the right to refuse, to accept as an employee of somebody who is not vaccinated and would go and join the rest of the employees in the factory or a place or whatever workplace that you have as your business tapos this guy would start to contaminate everybody," Duterte said in a late-night speech.
"I think it’s legal for employers not to accept people who are not vaccinated. Tama sila. I agree with them. And as a lawyer, sabihin ko mukhang tama ang ginawa ninyo. You are just protecting business and other people," he added.
Duterte's legal opinion however goes against the statement of the Department of Labor and Employment, which clarified in October that job seekers could be forced to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a pre-employment requirement.
"Ipinagbabawal po na irequire yung vaccination card para makapaghanap ng bagong trabaho o lumipat sa bagong trabaho. Bawal po iyon," Labor Usec. Benjo Benavides said in an online briefing last month.
Terminating workers on the basis of vaccination status however is a violation of the law, Duterte said. The labor department had also cautioned employers against enforcing a "no vaccine, no pay" policy because it's against the law.
"Ganito siguro, as a lawyer I would say na kung nandiyan ka na sa trabaho mo at ayaw mong magpabakuna, well, that is too bad for the employer, but sabi ng mga labor lawyers, strongly saying that hindi puwede ‘yang paalisin mo kung ayaw magpabakuna. That would be a violation of the law, and I think I agree with it," Duterte said.
While COVID-19 vaccination is not mandatory in the Philippines, it is encouraged to help end the pandemic.
As of Nov. 6, the Philippines has fully vaccinated some 29.3 million Filipinos against an initial target of at least 50 million by Christmas.