EXPLAINER: Acting Mayor Rama not clear on release of City Hall bonus: must all be vaccinated? Stance last June was harder but more specific.

·3 min read

WHAT JUST HAPPENED. Acting Mayor Michael Rama on Monday, November 8, said no (yearend) bonuses will be given to City Hall employees unless all of them are vaccinated.

Rama, Mayor Edgardo Labella's vice mayor, repeated the policy that the acting mayor announced last June, also in a similar Monday post-flag-raising speech before the City Government workers.

This time though, the toughness of his earlier threat was gone and it was not clear if just one unvaccinated employee could hold the release of the gratuity.

Why is the threat less intimidating? As he explained in the press-con after the flag rites Monday:

[1] He said all employees deserving under the prescribed rules to receive the bonus will get it.

[2] But if not all the employees are vaccinated, the bonus won't be released.

WHAT 'ALL' MEANS. Did the acting mayor mean that a single unvaccinated employee can delay the release of the bonus until even beyond Christmas?

A reporter tried to get the meaning of "all" -- though she didn't ask for the timeframe for the fulfillment of the condition -- but Rama went around it by saying those who are vaccinated, like himself, will encourage others who are unvaccinated.

CLEARER IN JUNE. In the June 21 flag rites, the stand of Vice Mayor Rama, also serving as acting mayor, on vaccination of City Hall employees was tougher and clearer: Employees who refuse to be inoculated shall not receive a bonus from the City Government. One news headline summed it up: "Rama tells CH workers: No vaccination, no bonus."

Mike Rama, a June 22 news report said, ordered department heads to register their employees in the vaccination program's master list. "All employees -- regular, casual and job order -- shall be vaccinated without distinction." He said he wanted vaccination figures to go up fast: the number of vaccinees, then claimed to be 9,000, could increase to 100,00, if all City Hall employees would get the jabs. Charity begins at home, he quoted the bromide, adding that he and Mayor Edgardo Labella agreed on the requirement of double jabs before an employee could get his bonus. "Way bonus nga madawat kung dili duha ka doses jud..."

* NO LEGAL BASIS FOR MANDATED VAX? The now less restrictive and quite ambiguous rule from A.M. Rama could be due to the statement of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III last October 21 that "there is still no legal basis for mandatory vaccination of all workers."

Bello said the IATF resolution covered only a few businesses, such as restaurants and spas that are allowed to offer dine-in or in-person services provided their employees are vaccinated, Bello said.

Under Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act (Republic Act #11525), "workers who refused to be vaccinated cannot be discriminated against in terms of promotion, training pay and other benefits." Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the law does not distinguish "between the recruitment stage for would-be employees and as condition for continued employment."

That may explain for A.M. Rama's shift from the hard-and-fast and clear rule he laid down last June 21 to the softer and a bit unclear rule he announced on November 8.

He also dodged a reporter's question about the compulsory nature of his policy.

THERE'S ALSO THE CITY COUNCIL to consider. The Sanggunian, with its active opposition out to pander to the City Hall voters, may not choose to depart from national policy and instead follow strictly the IATF fiat on non-compulsory vaccination.

A.M. Rama said he talked with Acting Vice Mayor Dondon Hontiveros, who was said to have promised support for the acting mayor's bonus policy provided the "elders" of the Sanggunian are for it. The elders might not go along with the idea. It's also an issue over which he may not wish to quarrel with Barug colleagues over.

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