Malacañang sides with DepEd, opposing mandatory drug tests for elementary students

Malacañang said on Monday, June 25, that it would not support the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) proposal to make drug tests mandatory for students as young as 10 years old, siding with the Department of Education’s (DepEd) stance that such testings are unconstitutional.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that no mandatory drug tests would be conducted for elementary students.

“We concur with Secretary [Leonor] Briones that the Dangerous Drug Act limits possible drug testing to high school and not to grade school students,” said Roque during a press briefing in Cagayan de Oro.

Roque was referring to Leonor Briones, DepEd Secretary.

Roque further cited the United States in his statement, saying that the mandatory drug testing among high school students in the states was also seen as unconstitutional.

“In America, random drug testing for high school students was upheld as constitutional but mandatory drug testing in high school was struck down as being unconstitutional,” he added in Filipino.

The stance came as PDEA officials last week said that they were planning to make drug tests mandatory for teachers and children as young as 10 years old during the 2018 to 2019 school year.  PDEA director general, Aaron Aquino, said that the proposal was in large part due to the agency having once arrested a 10-year-old suspected of drug use.

Following the PDEA proposal announcement, the DepEd said that it opposed testing plans that would have affected 14 million primary school students from grades four to 12, saying that it was against the law.

It said that it also already had a drug prevention program that was supported by Duterte.

“The primary mandate of DepEd is still the integration of preventive drug education in curriculum and instruction,” said the DepEd in a statement.  

“The president expressed his full support of the program.  Secretary Leonor Briones also noted that for the younger set, the directive of the president is to enhance the curriculum on preventative drug education, to which DepEd is responding,” it added.

DepEd began random testing of teachers and students of public and private schools last September 2017.

The department also warned that the testings would require considerably large costs amounting to nearly PHP 3 billion.

“The population of students from Grade 4 (the grade level of 10-year old students) to Grade 12 total at least 14 million.  At P200 per student for the testing alone, the budget will already amount to P2.8 billion,” said the education department.

The Human Rights Watch, which was been critical of president’s controversial war on drugs, criticized the PDEA proposal, calling it the “latest dangerous outgrowth of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign which has already claimed the lives to dozens of children.”

The proposal it added, would “place school children at grave risk.”

The PDEA said that the drug test results would be confidential.

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