Manila: The presidential palace said it is opposing a plan by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to conduct drug tests to grade school students.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Jr. said the palace is supporting the position of the education department, which is against drug testing for elementary school pupils.
“We concur with (Education) Secretary Leonor Briones that the Dangerous Drug Act limits possible drug testing to high school and not to grade school students,” Roque said.
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director Aaron Aquino had earlier suggested that students in the elementary starting from ten-years-old up, as well as high school students, should be subjected to drug testing.
The basis for Aquino in saying this, was that PDEA and the Philippine National Police had been able to arrest a number of ten-year-olds who are already using drugs at that age. Aside from this, at least three elementary school teachers had been arrested for peddling drugs.
But Roque said Briones’ position is anchored on what has been upheld by the US regarding the same issue of drug testing to minors.
“We take the side of Secretary Briones invoking that in the United States, what has been upheld as being constitutional is only random testing for high school,” Roque stressed.
Also on Monday, Senator Francis Pangilinan had said that the plan to subject elementary pupils to a drug testing, could be illegal, a waste of government money, and may be made as an excuse for corruption.
Pangilinan said the current law against substance abuse, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 is compatible with laws protecting minors such as those students in the elementary level.
The Senator said including elementary students in the planned drug screening of students may not be that easy.
Senator Pangilinan said a law is needed that would revise the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 to allow drug testing for 10-year-old children. For one, he said, administering test for at least 14 million students from Grade 4 to Grade 12 could already amount to some P2.8 billion (Dh192.49 million).
He said that given the huge amount involved, the planned programme could also be a source of corruption. “Who will earn from this expensive programme?” he pointedly asks.
An official of a Catholic schools group, Bishop Roberto Mallari, Chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (ECCCE-CBCP), said they do not oppose drug testing for the students including that for 10-year-olds.