2 lawmakers want mandatory drug tests at House

MANILA, Philippines – If the government really wants to rid the country of the drug menace, then its officials should have no problem subjecting themselves to a drug test, a lawmaker told a congressional panel on Wednesday, November 6.

Listening to a briefing by the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on the status of the Duterte administration's war on drugs, Cavite 4th District Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr said he would file a resolution "requesting all congressmen to submit themselves to random drug testing."

He would also urge the Department of the Interior and Local Government to order all governors, mayors, barangay captains, and other local officials to be tested for illegal drug use, Barzaga said, to prove a point to the public.

"Kasi minsan ang sinasabi ng ating mga kababayan, 'Yung aming barangay captain, kung minsan 'yung mayor, ay drug dependent.' And in order to eliminate this suspicion coming from the public, kinakailangan talagang ipakita ng mga nanunungkulan na sila ay hindi gumagamit ng droga," Barzaga told reporters after the hearing of the House of Representatives committee on dangerous drugs.

(Because sometimes, what our countrymen say is, "Our barangay captain, or sometimes, our mayor, is drug dependent." And in order to eliminate this suspicion coming from the public, officials really need to show that they do not use drugs.)

"Insofar as our congressmen and women are concerned, ganoon din minsan ang perception ng ating mga kababayan. 'Eh puro kayo aniya against drugs, mayroon naman kayong mga kasama diyan na mismong drug dependent,'" he added.

(Insofar as our congressmen and women are concerned, that's also the perception of our countrymen. "You keep saying you're against drugs, but you have colleagues who themselves are drug dependents.")

Barzaga would not be the first congressman to make such a proposal. The House dangerous drugs committee chairman, Surigao del Norte 2nd District Representative Robert Ace Barbers, filed a resolution in 2018 requiring all House members, their legislative staff, and all other people who work at the House to submit to a mandatory drug test.

"Awa ng Diyos, ako lang ang nagpa-drug test (Mercy me, I was the only one who got tested)," Barbers told reporters after Wednesday's hearing. Some lawmakers just refused to be tested.

Barbers refiled the resolution on July 1, when the 18th Congress opened.

Barzaga said it would be much easier to compel local officials to get tested because, as members of the executive, they could simply be ordered by the President or the interior secretary to do so.

As for the lawmakers themselves, "we cannot compel them," Barzaga said, so any resolution could only "strongly urge" them to get tested, unless a new law is passed to make it mandatory.

He is willing to file such a bill, he added, but it would take longer and be more difficult.

"Alam 'nyo naman (As you know), we want imminent remedy," Barzaga told reporters.

Although violating a mere resolution would entail no punishment, any lawmaker who refuses to be tested for drugs would be put on the spot, both congressmen said. Why would they refuse to get tested if they aren't guilty?

Barbers said the resolution could be done and be implemented before the end of the year, if he is able to get his colleagues to agree to it in plenary.

"I don't see any reason why a member would not agree, especially if he is not using illegal drugs," Barbers said.

"I guess, since we are all in support of the President's campaign against drugs, then we should prove to the people that we are not in any way involved in the issue of drugs," he added.

Although the Supreme Court (SC) once declared mandatory drug testing unconstitutional, Barbers and Barzaga said the times have changed and the ill effects of the drug menace have become more evident. They think the SC might rule differently next time around. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

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