By: MICHAEL PARADO
While the plan of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration (PDEA) to conduct drug testing to all students age 10 and older is laudable, the Department of Education and other sectors looked at it in the other way around.
No less than the Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said that plan may require the amendment of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, which authorizes drug testing for secondary and tertiary level students only.
Briones, in a statement, said that it will be good to compare the objectives of the two government institutions in implementing the drug test in connection to DepEd’s program which is “mainly to know the prevalence so it can provide interventions compliant to its mandate, and for health reasons, so proper treatment can be provided.”
As expected, DepEd took side with the children. This deserves a commendation from the public.
Aptly said, the Human Right Watch also criticized the move of PDEA, saying this proposal “will place school children at grave risk.”
“It marks a drastic extension of mandatory drug testing already in place for all college students and applicants, and will effectively allow the police to extend their ‘anti-drug’ operations to primary school classrooms. Imposing mandatory drug testing on schoolchildren when Philippine police are committing rampant summary killings of alleged drug users puts countless children in danger for failing a drug test, said Phelim Kine, Asia deputy director in Asia.
According to the rights group, the mandatory testing of children for drug use raises other human rights concerns as well.
“Taking a child’s bodily fluids, whether blood or urine, without their consent may violate the right to bodily integrity and constitute arbitrary interference with their privacy and dignity. Depending on how such testing occurs, it could also constitute degrading treatment, and may deter children from attending school or college for reasons unrelated to any potential drug use, depriving them of their right to an education,” Kine added.
Personally, I agreed with what Kine suggested when he said that government “should provide children with accurate information about the potential risks of drug use, not put them in the crosshairs of a summary killing campaign that has already claimed the lives of more than 12,000 Filipinos.”
We are also thankful to progressive youth groups who voiced out their criticism against the plan. League of Filipino Students national spokesperson JP Rosos said that subjecting students in random drug testing does not consider the welfare of the youth or provide interventions whether they are lost in track or not.
This is clearly an avenue for students to be vulnerable to attacks, he said.
As the drug campaign of Pres. Duterte already claimed the lives of dozens of children, it would be wise for the government to spare the children from mandatory drug testing.
(Note: The author teaches at the Palo National High School in Palo, Leyte)