House panel slams top IATF officials for snubbing hearing on COVID-19 vaccination policies

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The House Committee on Labor and Employment expressed disappointment after top officials of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) continued to skip its hearings on the government's COVID-19 vaccination policies. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 7) — The House Committee on Labor and Employment expressed disappointment after top officials of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) continued to skip its hearings on the government's COVID-19 vaccination policies.

Committee chairman and 1-PACMAN Party-list Rep. Enrico Pineda said the IATF should have a sense of urgency in resolving issues surrounding its policies for on-site workers — which they deem discriminatory against the unvaccinated.

"Hindi naman kami nagbibiro dito sa committee hearing namin. Ang involved dito 'yung karapatan at kabuhayan ng manggagawa. Bigyan niyo naman ng importansya," he said on Tuesday.

[Translation: We are not fooling around in our committee hearing. The rights and livelihood of our workers are what's at stake here. They (IATF) need to give this importance.]

Under IATF resolutions 148-B and 149-B, those working on-site in private and public establishments must be vaccinated against COVID-19, provided the area of their workplace have enough doses. If they are unvaccinated, they are required to undergo RT-PCR testing regularly at their own expense.

In its previous hearing held Dec. 1, there were also no IATF officials present to discuss the resolutions. Pineda questioned why the people attending Tuesday's hearing are those with limited authority.

The lawmaker also raised the lack of response on the House panel's letter to the IATF dated Dec. 1, seeking to suspend the implementation of the resolutions.

"Wala man lang sagot sa amin eh... The way we feel, especially my committee members here eh, para kaming napapahiya dito eh. Parang hindi kami binibigyan importansya ng amo ninyo," Pineda said.

[Translation: No one bothered to answer us... The way we feel, especially my committee members here, it's like we are being disrespected. It's like your bosses are not giving us importance.]

IATF Head of Secretariat Undersecretary Charade Mercado-Grande said Health Secretary Francisco Duque has read the letter and the resolutions are already up for review. She explained the matter may be taken up in the next IATF meetings.

Mercado-Grande said the receipt of the letter was also the reason she and other representatives of concerned agencies were asked to attend the House inquiry.

Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Ferdinand Gaite appealed to the IATF to put more importance to the hearings, given the plight of workers. He said he hopes they do not need to issue subpoenas to ensure their attendance.

Trade Union Congress of the Philippines Party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza also appealed to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to attend so they can understand the agency's position on the resolutions.

Labor leaders and a doctor's group reiterated their positions on the policies — urging the government to make vaccines more accessible, and to provide free testing for workers and the Filipino people.

As for the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, it stressed the need to protect the workplace from COVID-19.