January 31, 2023

Based on the IATF guidelines, employers may enact company or corporate policies that will protect their employees from being infected with the virus that causes the Covid-19. Towards this end, employers may impose the mandatory vaccination of their employees as pre-requisite for work. Provided that those who refuse to have themselves vaccinated, for any reason whatsoever, may not be terminated from their employment. However, to secure the safety of the workers from possible contamination that may be brought to the workplace by those unvaccinated, the latter shall be required to undergo RT-PCR testing on a regular basis before being allowed entry.
These IATF guidelines have many unvaccinated workers cry foul. They claim that this is a violation of their constitutional rights. According to them, this is discriminatory and an obvious transgression of their security of tenure. It gives their employer wide latitude to terminate their employment on the sole reason that they are unvaccinated. It is grave coercion. Is it?
Grave coercion is a situation wherein a person instructs, commands or directs another person, by means of undue influence, force, threat or intimidation to do something against his will which is not prohibited by law. For instance, if you prevent a person from entering his own home, that is grave coercion. Based on this premise, is the act of an employer, in refusing entry to a regular worker who is unvaccinated grave coercion?
Ironically, there is no jurisprudence to decide on this. However, there are now a couple of test cases filed before the regular courts to determine this issue. Sometime last week, a factory worker who was denied entry because he refused to be vaccinated nor did he want to have himself tested via RT-PCR because it was too costly, filed a case for declaratory relief. Declaratory relief is a case where a petitioner asks a court to determine his rights and liabilities arising out a contract law, regulation, or any legal document.
Among the allegations the petitioner made in his complaint is that the mandatory company policy letting only vaccinated or RT-PCR tested employees to work constitutes grave coercion and is unconstitutional. Those who were made respondents are the Department of Health, the employer, the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court, and the implementer of the IATF. Aside from ruling that the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court and the implementer of the IATF are not proper parties to the case, the court has yet to rule on the merits. Hopefully, the ruling will come out as fast as possible because it will have a great impact on our policies regarding mandatory vaccination.
I have my stand but since it may not conform to what will come out in the future, I reserve my comment until after the issue is resolved by the proper authorities. However, it might be important to state that President Rodrigo Duterte is a very staunch advocate of mandatory vaccination. He is of the opinion that by police power, the state may require all Filipinos to be vaccinated.
Furthermore, there is already a precedent on the legality of mandatory vaccination, although it is not in the Philippines. In France and Germany, mandatory vaccination is now a matter of state policy. Only those who are vaccinated may avail of services being provided by restaurants, eateries, groceries, and other establishments that are catering to the public.
So, the case filed by the worker who was denied entry due to his being unvaccinated may be a long shot. If at all, only positive contribution it may give is that it enriches jurisprudence and will give a chance to the courts to resolve with finality the lingering question on whether or not mandatory vaccination is constitutional.
Nevertheless, each of us is tasked with the civic obligation of reminding those unvaccinated to please have themselves vaccinated. It is not only their safety and rights that are at stake. On the contrary, it is as much our safety and constitutional right to have the unvaccinated vaccinated.