Mandatory drug tests could lead to ‘tokhang’ in schools, warns students’ union

Mara Cepeda
Mandatory drug tests could lead to ‘tokhang’ in schools, warns students’ union

Alecs Ongcal

UP will not require students to undergo drug tests. 'We are very wary that this could be abused and the results misused,' says public affairs VP Jose Dalisay Jr

MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Students of the Philippines condemned the memorandum of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) allowing the mandatory of drug testing of colleges students. 

The NUSP said the CHED order would make students “possible targets” of President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war against drugs, which has led to more than 7,000 killings linked to police operations and apparent summary executions nationwide. 

“Academic freedom should not be about incriminating students. Drug testing should be non-mandatory, and it should not be a requirement for admission in schools,” said NUSP national spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim.

“We cannot allow the Duterte administration’s ‘Oplan Tokhang’ to take place in school. It will make students possible targets of the bloody war on drugs, which has claimed the lives of thousands of suspected drug users, both from police operations and vigilante-style killings,” he added.

Oplan TokHang is the Philippine National Police’s strategy of literally knocking on the doors of suspected drug users and pushers to give them a chance to change their ways. “TokHang” is a contraction of the Visayan words “toktok” (knock) and “hangyo” (request).

CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan recently approved a memorandum allowing higher education institutions (HEIs) to conduct mandatory drug tests among current students and student applicants, provided that a proper consultation is first conducted. 

Students who yield positive results in the drug test must go through a confirmatory test. If the result is positive again, the school is not allowed to use the results as sole basis to impose a disciplinary action on the student. 

But University of the Philippines vice president for public affairs Jose Dalisay Jr said they will not be requiring students to undergo a drug test. He said the UP administration was “overwhelmingly critical” of the policy when CHED was mulling it over months ago.  

“We feel that it would possibly infringe on people’s rights. We also are very wary that this could be abused and the results misused. And further, that it could also be very poorly implemented and even give rise to corruption,” Dalisay told Rappler.  

“We don’t want that to happen to students and to other students in the country,” he added.

For NUSP, the Duterte administration must see drug addiction as a health problem, a similar plea made by the medical community to the President.  

“If Duterte is serious in addressing the problem of drug addiction, he should destroy the foundation of poverty by taking a step for pro-people socio-economic reforms such as providing free education, social services, jobs, and living wages,” said Lim. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.