Expanding the Hippocratic Triangle: The General Principles of DTI-DOLE JMC 20-04-A

CAL Gallardo; Paladins of Law

When we hear the name Hippocrates, the first thing we remember is the Oath taken by doctors upon passing their board exams. True enough, Hippocrates is a physician by profession. In ancient Greek society however, every discipline, including medicine and science, was linked to geometry and philosophy. It is not surprising to learn therefore that aside from developing a code of conduct for physicians, Hippocrates also developed a “Hippocratic Triangle” in understanding the relationship of “the disease, the diseased person and the physician”. Since this is not a philosophical article, let us be content in knowing that the geometric representation summarizes the principle that a physician deals not only to a body but to human life as a whole.

Okay… How does this relate to DTI-DOLE JMC 20-04-A?

Modern medicine, unlike ancient medicine which deals with art, geometry and even sacred magic, recognizes the key role of politics, economy and social sciences in the health of the patients. Unlike the simple (but artistic and literary, if I may add) depiction of the relationship of only 3 variables, public health focuses on social factors. In line with this, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), after thoroughly studying the issuances of the Department of Health and Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid-19 response, came up with a Joint Memorandum Circular providing for a guideline in order to help employers and business-owners adapt to the “new normal” of doing business. It is a 22-pager document which can be quite confusing to read, especially that reference to other laws and issuances must be made in order to understand it fully. Moreover, some of the principles outlined in the document gave birth to more questions than answers. The Paladins of Law however provides this 4-part article for a complete guidance in operating under this “new normal”, taking into consideration not only the DTI-DOLE JMC but also other laws and issuances of other departments, especially that of the Bureau of Working Conditions.

But before we delve into the specifics, let us follow the Hippocratic way of inquiry: we shall start with the general principles first.

Is the JMC applicable to all establishments? What if I own only a small business with less than 10 employees?

As a general rule, the provisions of the guidelines are applicable to all establishments, regardless of size and industry. Why? Because it is the social responsibility of everyone, regardless of status or condition, to help stop the spread of this virus. There are specific provisions however that applies only for big companies. We will discuss that in detail in the succeeding articles.[1]

How about the Work from Home Arrangement? Is it still a thing in this “new normal”?

Entering into a work from home arrangement is NOT mandatory, although it is highly recommended.[2] It is important to note as well that employees under work from home arrangement do not surrender any of their rights simply because they are rendering work at home. They are similarly entitled to overtime pay, night shift differential and other benefits enjoyed by employees reporting to the office.[3]

What is this Work Accident/Illness Report (WAIR) Form? When and where do I file it?

The WAIR is a monthly report made to the nearest DOLE office regardless of whether or not there is an infected or symptomatic employee in the workplace. Its function is to inform the DOLE of the details of the COVID 19 prevention and control program of the company and is actual implementation.[4] It is made on per-branch basis since the LGUs are the ones primarily charged in monitoring COVID cases.[5] However, the contractor’s WAIR Reports must also reflect its deployed employees even if it was the principal or client who shouldered the costs for the Covid testing.[6]

What is Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Standards? What composes its Committee?

An OSH standard is set in order to ensure a safe and healthful workplace to employees. It actually exists even before this whole pandemic thing happened. Under which, all employees are required to undergo the 8-hour safety and health seminar, which may be conducted by the safety officer of the establishment or any accredited OSH practitioner or consultant.[7] In order to implement the OSH Program, an Occupational Safety and Health Committee shall be constituted which shall be composed of representatives of the employer, employees and safety officers.[8] The number and qualification of the safety officers however, and the prescribed training for each, shall be proportionate to the total number of workers and equipment, the size of the work area and risk assessment.[9] Regardless of the number of workers and the risk involved however, there must be a person who underwent basic first aid training. [10]

Okay… I maybe going too far here but what if I do not want to comply?

Well, you may be temporarily closed until it is shown that your establishment is in full compliance with the prescribed minimum health protocols.[11] This is without prejudice however to civil and criminal cases which may be filed by other government authorities for violation of RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act as well as other existing laws, rules and regulations, and to fines and penalties that may be imposed by the Local Government Unit.[12]

It is clear hereon that the simple triangular structure of Hippocrates is limited in scope. Given the communicable nature of the COVID-19 virus, the public aspect of physical health is highlighted by the DTI-DOLE JMC. What is also limited in scope however is this first part of the series of articles regarding DTI-DOLE JMC and related issuances, as this covers only the general principles in operating under the “new normal”. We barely scratched the surface. Join us again next week as we discuss intervention protocols before entering the workplace. Meanwhile, please join our Facebook Group Business and Labor Forum for free legal updates. Check the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/businesslaborforum/

Cover Photo taken from iosrjournals.org

[1] Frequently Asked Questions on DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Work Preparation and Control, Bureau of Working Conditions (2020). [2] Id. [3] DOLE DO 202 s. 2019 [4] DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A. [5] DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph V. [6] DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph V. in relation to Art 106 and Art 109 of the Labor Code of the Philippines [7] § 16 (b), RA 11058. [8] § 13, Id. [9] § 14, RA 11058. See § 14 DO-198 series of 2018. [10] § 13, DO-198 series of 2018 [11] DTI and DOLE Joint Memorandum Circular No 20-04-A, Paragraph VIII. [12] Frequently Asked Questions on DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Work Preparation and Control, Bureau of Working Conditions (2020).

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