PDEA’s new proposal: Mandatory drug tests for high school, college students

Rambo Talabong

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PDEA’s new proposal: Mandatory drug tests for high school, college students
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency wants to require all high school and college students to undergo a drug test

MANILA, Philippines – After the Department of Education (DepEd) stood its ground and refused the proposal to conduct drug tests to elementary students, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) presented a new proposal: mandatory drug tests for high school and college students.

PDEA chief Director General Aaron Aquino revealed the pitch in a press conference on Wednesday, July 12 at the PDEA headquarters in Quezon City. A reporter asked him about how the meeting with DepEd went the day before.

He responded: “Before the meeting end[ed], sinabi ko baka pwede naman nilang pagbigyan  na lang na magkaroon ng mandatory drug test ang secondary and tertiary, kahit ‘yun na lang muna (I told them maybe they can allow me to have mandatory drug testing for secondary and tertiary levels, even just that first.)

Aquino said the current system of random drug testing for high school and college students as “ineffective”, because “hindi mo natutukoy o tinatamaan ang dapat i-drug-test (you couldn’t pinpoint who should be hit by the drug test).

Citing PDEA data, he said more than half of minors arrested for engaging in illegal drugs were students. (LIST: Minors, college students killed in Duterte’s drug war)

Legislation battle now

PDEA chief Aquino admitted, however, that the battle to required drug tests for all now belongs in the halls of Congress, as they would now need to amend Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

The law curently states in its Section 36:

(c) Students of secondary and tertiary schools. – Students of secondary and tertiary schools shall, pursuant to the related rules and regulations as contained in the school’s student handbook and with notice to the parents, undergo a random drug testing..

A retired police general who headed Central Luzon cops during the first year of President Rodrigo Duterte, Aquino said he has received support from congressmen and the Philippine National Police. He did not mention whether the Department of Health would back his agency.

The DepEd, so far, does not see the need to amend the law.

Speaking to reporters in a chance interview on Wednesday, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said the current set-up is enough to prevent students from engaging in illegal drugs. – with a report from Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.