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Solons divided over drug tests

A LAWMAKER on Sunday urged Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to require drug testing for all 292 members of the House of Representatives—even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that doing so would be unconstitutional.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, also supported the proposal by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to impose mandatory drug tests on students from Grade 4 and up, even though the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 allows testing only on students of secondary and tertiary schools. 

“The intention of the director general is noble,” he said, referring to PDEA chief Aaron Aquino. ‘There is no violation if we implement it on grade four [students].”

He added that under the doctrine of parens patriae, the state has the responsibility to protect those who are unable to protect themselves, like children.

Authorities want drug tests for Grade 4 students and higher grade school pupils. (File photo)
Barbers said his committee is considering legislation that would include elementary level pupils in mandatory drug testing.

Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, and Alliance of Concerned Teachers Reps. France Castro and Antonio Tiñio, on the other hand, opposed PDEA’s proposal.

Alejano said children would suffer from psychological effects from the drug testing.

“This is not a sound policy. PDEA should consider the psychological effects of a mandatory and surprise drug testing. This may cause fear and trauma on the children, especially if not handled properly,” he said.

“Why not go after big-time drug lords?” Castro asked.

Tiñio, raised the alarm over the series of pronouncements from the police, local and national government officials targeting children.

“Two weeks ago, [National Capital Region Police Office] Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar floated the proposal of tasking public school teachers to inspect students’ bags and lockers,” he said.

Alejano said the proposed mandatory drug testing in school would only entail unnecessary expenses for the government or the parents.

The Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns slammed the proposal during its 32nd anniversary rites at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila.

Former Social Welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Australian nun Sr. Patricia Fox and more than 300 child rights advocates, day-care workers and children from different child-focused organizations and institutions participated in the event.

“Duterte’s fascist rule makes Filipino children more vulnerable to abuses. He started it by assuring the police of protection while conducting operations which claimed the lives of about 44 children. Now he wants to bring his Oplan Tokhang to schools by requiring drug testing of pupils as young as nine years old,” said Eule Rico Bonganay, Salinlahi national secretary general.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, meanwhile, pushed for the passage of a bill to create a nationwide education and awareness program on illegal drugs.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, on the other hand, objected to the proposal to extend mandatory drug testing to Grade 4 students, noting that enough programs are in place at the Department of Education.

“Subjecting elementary students to random drug tests would create an atmosphere of confusion, discomfort, and fear that would stunt their emotional and psychological development,” he said in a statement.

He also said that PDEA had not provided enough evidence to justify mandatory drug testing for elementary students and teachers

“There is no legal basis for conducting random drug tests on elementary students. Section 36(c) of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 (Republic Act 9165) only authorizes drug testing for secondary and tertiary students,” he added.

Topics: House of Representatives , drug tests
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