VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte admin seesaws on legality of declining unvaxxed job-seekers

As the government eyes a three-day National Vaccination Drive later this month, President Rodrigo Duterte reopened the issue on whether it is legal for businesses to turn down unvaccinated job applicants.

Duterte’s recent claim contradicts the stance of the Inter-Agency Task Force for Managing Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on the matter, following a string of inconsistencies.

VERA Files Fact Check tracked their conflicting statements in this video:

In an interview with the People’s Television Network on Nov. 11, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez again clarified that there is no vaccination requirement for workers, saying employers can “prefer vaccinated” job applicants but such pre-condition is only an “additional point” for hiring.

Section 12 of RA 11525, or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, states that “vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar transaction purposes.”

At least one measure in Congress seeks to amend RA 11525 and mandate COVID-19 vaccination. House Bill 9252, filed by Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, remains pending on the House committee on health since May.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire said in a Nov. 5 media forum:

“One of the things that we are looking at, because we will never achieve ‘yung immunity na kailangan ng populasyon natin kung may mga sektor sa society na hindi mababakunahan, so isa po sa tinitingnan nating paraan is to make it mandatory.”

(One of the things that we are looking at, because we will never achieve the immunity that our population needs if there are sectors in society which are not vaccinated, another way [to increase vaccination] is to make it mandatory.)

Vergeire said this is “not to impose” on all sectors, but on “specific sectors which are vulnerable” and workers exposed to face-to-face interactions. That said, she added that the Department of Health will “heed” the statement of Guevarra that a law is needed for this to be allowed.

Following Duterte’s Nov. 9 pronouncement, the IATF issued Resolution No. 148 on Nov. 11, instructing all establishments and employers in the public and private sector to “require their eligible employees who are tasked to do on-site work to be vaccinated against COVID-19” in areas with “sufficient” supply.

It noted, however, that “eligible employees who remain to be unvaccinated may not be terminated solely by reason thereof.” Instead, they will be required to undergo RT-PCR tests or antigen tests (if the former is “not immediately available”) “regularly at their own expense for purposes of on-site work.”

The Philippines has administered more than 69.71 million COVID-19 jabs as of Nov. 14. More than 31.57 million are fully vaccinated, while more than 38.14 million have received their first dose.


Editor’s note: This article was updated to include the video fact-check.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct page 6 of the infographic, which initially identified the IATF resolution in question as “IATF Resolution No. 13.” It should be “IATF resolution dated Oct. 13.”


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On the National Vaccination drive


Official Gazette, 1987 Constitution of the Philippines

Official Gazette, Republic Act No. 11525

House of Representatives, House Bill No. 9252

People’s Television Network, PANOORIN: Public Briefing #LagingHandaPH, Nov. 11, 2021

Department of Health, Beat COVID-19 Media Forum, Nov. 5, 2021

Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Resolution No. 148-B, Nov. 11, 2021

Department of Health, National COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)