By Alexandria Dennise San Juan
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency clarified that its proposed mandatory drug test is to save children and not to discriminate them, saying that minors involved in illegal drugs might be the country’s future enemies.
“Ang puntos ko lang naman dito is to save children. Ayoko ipahiya sila. Ayaw ko ipagkalat na itong bata na ito ay drug pusher o drug user. Ang akin lang naman, gusto kong sagipin ang bata at may proseso ito. (My point here is to save children. I don’t want to discriminate them. I don’t want to spread out they are drug pusher or user. I just want to save the children and there will be a process),” PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said Friday.
Pdea made this clarification after it was criticized by various agencies for its proposed mandatory drug testing to Grade 4 students and up.
PDEA, over the week, announced that it wants to push a mandatory drug tests for all students in both public and private schools nationwide.
The PDEA director general reiterated that its proposal of mandatory drug test came after numbers of students and teachers were arrested during their series of anti-illegal drug operations.
During the sidelines of the agency’s 16th founding anniversary held at the PDEA National Headquarters in Quezon City, Aquino also said that if those involved in illegal drugs at their very young age were not rescued now, they might become the “very enemies in the future.”
Aquino also wished to amend Section 36 of the Republic Act 9165 which states that “students of secondary and tertiary schools pursuant to the related rules and regulations as contained in the school’s student handbook and with notice to the parents, undergo a random drug testing.”
He said the current random drug testing is ineffective as those suspected illegal drug users might not be included, adding that those subjected for random drug tests might be bullied by their classmates.
“Kung random drug test baka yung puro i-tetest natin baka puro negative. Yung mga suspected natin na mga gumagamit hindi natin ma-drug test. So it is safer to mandatory drug test everyone (Those students who will undergo random drug test might yield negative results. And those suspected drug user, we cannot push for a drug test. So, it is safer to mandatory drug test everyone),” Aquino said.
He also urged everyone to look at the positive side of mandatory drug testing.
“Hindi i-kikickout ang bata sa school once nag-positive. There’s a process. Ang makakalam lang nun, magulang at kami. There should be a special case on how to counsel yung bata. Pag-aralan muna nung mga nagcocomment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education earlier criticized PDEA’s proposal saying that this would require a huge cost.
DepEd said PDEA’s plan will cost the government about P2.8 billion to test some 14-million students who are from Grade 4 (10-year-old students) to Grade 12 students.
According to Aquino, the budget will not be the problem if we really wanted the children to be free of illegal drugs.
“Wag nating isipin yung gagastusin, isipin natin we are saving lives of children. Ang pera hindi katumbas ng isang bata na pinalaki mo na magiging adik, na magiging pusher, at eventually magiging big problem of the government in the future (Do not think of how much it will cost, let us think we are saving lives of children. The money is not equal to a child you raised just to be an addict, a pusher, and eventually will become a big problem of the government in the future),” Aquino explained.
The director general reiterated that their proposal is still subject to discussions, and studies if will be allowed to be implemented by other agencies, especially the DepEd.
Aquino added that they will just present the drug situation among schools and the data of students and teachers using and selling illegal drugs.
“Nagsasalita pa lang ako ang dami nang sector na bumabatikos. We do not do this to harass children, to harass parents. We are trying to do this because we want to save children. Na prevention is better than cure kaya gusto namin na ma-prevent ang pagpasok ng iligal na droga sa eskwelahan. Sana maintindihan yun ng parents, ng teachers, ng estudyante, at ng iba pang sektor ng ating pamhalaan,” he
A technical working group has yet to be created by PDEA for gathering and presenting the data before meeting with other agencies on the matter, Aquino said.