Law needed for P2.8-billion drug testing of grade school kids – Kiko Pangilinan

CONGRESS  must first pass an enabling law to legally enforce President Duterte’s directive to conduct random drug testing on grade school-age children, according to opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan.

“A law is needed to implement the government’s proposed mandatory drug test for children as young as 10 years old or those in grade 4,” Pangilinan pointed out Monday, echoing the position of Education Secretary Leonor M. Briones, who said the law as it stands only allows random drug testing on high school and tertiary students.

Voicing concern over the latest presidential edict, the opposition lawmaker issued a statement Monday describing Duterte’s “panicky plan” as an open admission by the President that “the brutal government war on drugs is ineffective.”

Pangilinan said “We propose that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency shelve this slapdash and panicky plan trained on little children, and instead go after the big drug lords to stop the flow of illegal drugs,” Pangilinan said.

The Senator allied with the opposition Liberal Partry added: “We join the critics of the idea, led by the Department of Education, because such a move is illegal, a waste of money and resources, and has a prejudiced approach to the problem of illegal drugs in the country.”

He recalled DepEd officials themselves also aired apprehension such drug testing on grade school children would violate the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

“With regard to the cost, this would be another source of corruption,” says Pangilinan, noting for instance that given a population of at least 14 million students from Grade 4 to Grade 12 alone, the testing fee could amount to P2.8 billion.

At the same time, Sen. Pangilinan wants to know: “who will earn from this expensive program?”

 “Such an amount, wherever the government plans to source it, would be better used to augment the school feeding program, so that children would be nourished and not be swayed to use illegal drugs,” he said.

Moreover, Pangilinan asserted that DepEd was already conducting an ongoing drug testing program and a comprehensive drug prevention education program. He suggested that the multi-billion-peso budget intended for the children’s drug tests “could also get them textbooks or schools supplies, or even build additional classrooms. It could also help fund the additional salary public school teachers have been demanding for a long time,” the senator added.

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Butch Fernandez is BusinessMirror’s senior political reporter based at the Senate. He has covered Malacanang (3 presidencies), the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, local governments and defense since 1984.


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