House deputy speakers open to drug testing for lawmakers

MANILA, Philippines – Three House deputy speakers said they are open to a mandatory drug testing for all lawmakers in support of President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

"Personally – I don't know if the others are willing – I'm open to being drug tested and I think most of us are also open," said House Deputy Speaker Mercedes Alvarez on Monday, August 8.

House Deputy Speaker Eric Singson added: "I don't have any objection if that is the will of the leadership so siguro puwedeng i-bring up 'to kay Speaker [Pantaleon Alvarez] (we can bring this up to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez) just to show that the 17th Congress is also cooperating in the fight against drugs."

House Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo shared the same sentiments. He believes that because representatives were elected by the people, they should be "measured by a much higher standard."

"Ibig sabihin, hinalal ka, representante ang tawag sa'yo, so marapat lang siguro na dumaan ka sa iba't ibang pagsubok na hindi ina-apply sa iba… Kung may durugista dito ay kahiya-kahiya naman siguro. Ngunit kung meron naman e dapat matulungan natin," said Quimbo. 

(You were elected and you are called a representative, so I think it's only right that you go through different challenges that do not apply to others... If someone is taking drugs here, that's probably shameful. But we should help him or her.)

Their statements come after their fellow lawmaker Pangasinan 1st District Representative Jesus "Boying" Celeste was included in President Rodrigo Duterte's list of officials allegedly involved in drug operations. Some of them have already surrendered at Camp Crame.

Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Ace Barbers also previously filed House Resolution Number 15 seeking mandatory drug testing for all House members, legislative staff, employees, and consultants to ensure a drug-free workplace. 

For now, however, House Majority Floor Leader Rudy Fariñas said lawmakers and House employees who wish to undergo drug testing may do so on their own.

"That is voluntary on the part of [House] members because the Constitution provides for their qualifications," said the House Majority Floor Leader. 

He also said that Section 6, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution does not include a drug test among the qualifications a person needs to meet to be elected into the House of Representatives. 

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella previously said Malacañang welcomes the proposal for mandatory drug testing for all government workers. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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