PDEA to consult DepEd, DSWD on mandatory drug tests in schools

MANILA Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino on Friday expressed his plans to talk to the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (Ched) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) before conducting mandatory drug testing on primary, secondary and tertiary students and teachers.

Aquino said his office will coordinate with DepEd, CHED, DSWD and other eligible agencies for discussion with regards to the implementation of the program and said that they will accept whatever the results of the discussion will be.

Aquino added that while he does not see the urgency for a law providing mandatory drug tests for primary, secondary and tertiary students to be passed, he emphasized that conducting mandatory drug teting aims to save children, and not harass them.

Later on na 'yun siguro, kailangan lang namin siguro makipagconsult sa ibang agencies (We can do that later, we just need to consult with other agencies). Hindi namin ginagawa ito (We are not doing this) to harass children, we do not do this to harass parents. We are trying to do this because we want to save children na prevention is better than cure, Aquino told reporters at the sidelines of PDEA's 16th anniversary.

Aquino, however, added that it would be better if a law could be passed since R.A. 9165 or the "Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002" needs to be amended to allow mandatory drug tests.

Whether it's Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, it's okay. Hindi naman talaga sa PDEA, sinasabing gusto namin Grade 4, gusto namin Grade 3. So it's up to what will happen to the result of the discussion and workshop naming gagawin, Aquino said.

For his part, Senate President Vicente Tito Sotto III backed the proposal of PDEA to conduct mandatory drug testing in schools.

The strategy that they are proposing is part of a preventive education program kaya sabi ko, ako, I will support the program if it is a preventive education program, said Sotto, who was guest of honor of the event.

Sotto, however, said a new law amending Republic Act No. 9165 is needed if PDEA would insist on their proposal to have mandatory drug tests for students and teachers beginning Grade 4.

Kung gusto nila talagang mandatory sa lahat, eh kailangan amyendahan ang batas (If they really want it mandatory for everyone, an amendment of the law is need), Sotto said.

Sotto noted that the PDEA is mandated, through the Dangerous Drugs Board, to come up with policies and this is one policy that they are proposing.

Section 36(c) of RA 9165 only provides for random drug testing for secondary and tertiary students.

PDEA has proposed the drug testing for students Grades 4 and up in public and private schools nationwide, a proposal which was based on one of PDEA's conducted cases where the youngest drug user captured turned out to be 10 years old only.

PDEA also suggested a mandatory drug testing for all teachers and school employees after they recently caught two teachers from Butuan City and one from Maguindanao selling drugs.

Meanwhile, DepEd said it has an ongoing drug testing program which started in school year 20172018 and will be completed in school year 20182019.

It covers 1,300 officers and personnel at the central office, 3,800 in the regional offices, and 26,000 in school division offices.

DepEd said the drug testing program has the full support of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

DepEd is responding to the directive of the President for the department to enhance the curriculum on preventive drug education for the younger learners, the statement read.

DepEd also noted that the initiative may require the amendment of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 which authorizes drug testing for secondary and tertiary level students only. (with reports from Rachel Banares,OJT/PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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