By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) is set to meet with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration (PDEA) this week to further discuss the proposed drug testing of Grade 4 pupils and older.
DepEd Spokesperson Nepomuceno Malaluan confirmed that officials of the two agencies “have agreed to meet on July 5” regarding the PDEA proposal and to possibly discuss other matters regarding the drug testing for students and teachers. Education Secretary Leonor Briones is expected to meet with PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino along with other officials.
Briones, in an earlier statement, said that it will be “good to compare the objectives of the two institutions.” She noted that DepEd’s objective is mainly “to know the prevalence so it can provide interventions compliant with its mandate, and for health reasons, so proper treatment can be provided.”
Meanwhile, DepEd stands firm on its stand that legally, “only high school students” could be tested for high school students could be tested for drug use. The Department also noted that to be able to test all students age 10 and older, amendment of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 – which authorizes drug testing for secondary and tertiary level students only – may be required.
DepEd also insisted that it has an ongoing drug testing program pursuant to the authorized drug testing under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, specifically Section 36 (c) with respect to students, and Section 36 (d) with respect to officers and employees of public offices.
“The specific standards and guidelines follow strictly the regulations of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Regulation No. 6, s. 2003 as amended by DDB Regulation No. 3, s. 2009, on the conduct of drug testing for students, and DDB Regulation No. 2, s. 2004. Likewise, there is a Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 1700653 issued on 15 March 2017, providing guidelines of the mandatory drug test for public officials and employees,” DepEd said.
DepEd noted that with respect to students, the authority is to test for secondary and tertiary students. Citing the implementing regulation of the DDB, DepEd reiterates that the objectives of the drug testing is to determine the prevalence of drug users among the students; to assess the effectivity of school-based and community-based prevention programs; to deter the use of illegal drugs; to facilitate the rehabilitation of drug users and dependents; and, to strengthen the collaboration efforts of identified agencies against the use of illegal drugs and in the rehabilitation of drug users and dependents.
“The DDB regulation also provides that the number of samples should yield a statistical 95% confidence level for the whole student population,” DepEd said. Based on its data, the population of students – from Grade 4 or the grade level of 10-year old students to Grade 12 – is at least 14 million. This would cost the government at least P2.8 billion including the “considerable related costs for capacity-building and mobilization for the conduct of the drug testing.”
DepEd maintains that the ongoing drug testing is a “component of a much broader preventive drug education program.”
The primary mandate of department, DepEd stressed is still the “integration of preventive drug education in curriculum and instruction” which includes the adverse effects of the abuse of dangerous drugs on the person, the family, the school and the community; preventive measures against drug abuse; health, socio-cultural, psychological, legal and economic dimensions and implications of the drug problem; and steps to take when intervention on behalf of a drug dependent is needed, as well as the services available for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependents.
Through the preventive drug education in curriculum and instruction, DepEd also hopes to instill among learners the “misconceptions about the use of dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, the importance and safety of dangerous drugs for medical and therapeutic use as well as the differentiation between medical patients and drug dependents in order to avoid confusion and accidental stigmatization in the consciousness of the students.”