KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 5 August) – A town mayor in South Cotabato has vowed to dismiss local government employees who will refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) even as the Department of Health (DOH) announced on the same day that the “No vaccine, no work” policy is not allowed.
Mayor Antonio Bendita of Surallah town revealed that the town’s Interagency Task Force on COVID-19, during a meeting last Friday, reached a consensus that local government unit (LGU) workers must all be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“A great deluge looms large before us in the form of the Delta variant, which is more potent and highly transmissible,” the official stressed during Monday’s flag-raising ceremony where he announced his directive to fire unvaccinated LGU employees.
He stressed that local government workers “must serve as models for the rest of their constituents.”
Unlike the other COVID-19 variants, Bendita noted that the Delta variant “can infect others in seconds through airborne transmission.”
Bendita, a lawyer, said the dismissal process of a regular employee who will refuse COVID-19 vaccination will be filed before the Civil Service Commission.
For job order employees who will shun COVID-19 inoculation, he noted it’s easy for him to fire them since they were hired at his discretion.
“We already notified the local government workers to get vaccinated. Now if they refuse and then unfortunately get infected by the virus, I will even file criminal negligence against them,” the mayor said.
“You can go to jail if you communicated or spread a disease to others,” he added.
As a lawyer who has handled labor cases, Bendita stressed that having a communicable or highly contagious disease is a ground for termination of employment.
For the municipal government workers who will refuse COVID-19 vaccination because their religion “would not allow it,” Bendita advised them to stop reporting to work until the pandemic is controlled.
The “no work-no pay” policy will be applied to them, he said.
The local government is trying to prevent the spread of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by promoting vaccination among its constituents, Bendita said.
The DOH, however, issued an announcement in its Facebook page also on Thursday that “No vaccine, no work’ policy IS NOT ALLOWED,” citing Advisory No. 03 Series of 2021 of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Republic Act 11525 (COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act).
DOLE’s advisory said that “establishments and employers shall endeavor to encourage their employees to get vaccinated. However, any employee who refuses or fails to be vaccinated shall not be discriminated against in terms of tenure, promotion, training, pay, and other benefits, among others, or terminated from employment.”
Section of 12 of RA 11525, on the other hand, pointed out that “vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment and other similar government transaction purposes.”
Arthur Condes, acting information officer of the Department of the Interior and Local Government – Region 12 (DILG-12), said the agency is aware of the situation in the Surallah LGU through local media reports.
However, no written formal complaint has been lodged as of Wednesday, August 4, at the DILG-12 against Bendita’s policy, which ties the hands of the agency from acting on the matter, he said.
Dr. Neil Crespo, municipal health officer, noted that vaccination is the only solution to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let us know if you don’t want to get the COVID-19 vaccine so that we can give it to others who are willing,” he said.
Crespo said the municipal health office is open and ready to give advice to those who are hesitant to get the anti-COVID-19 vaccines.
According to him, the local government unit has available Janzen and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines while Sinovac-CoronaVac is due to arrive.
Surallah, a first-class municipality located in the upper valley of South Cotabato, has recorded 468 confirmed COVD-19 cases as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, August 3. It has 79 active cases, 370 recoveries and 19 cases resulted in deaths, data from the South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office showed. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)