By Franco Regala
Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director Gen. Aaron N. Aquino on Friday repeated his call for mandatory drug testing for all students and teachers in public and private schools throughout the country.
Aquino said the objective is to determine the extent of drug users among students, or those having drug problems, teachers, and even school personnel; and to deter drug use, both for the purpose of reformation and rehabilitation.
He said the move is also expected to deter peer-pressure or peer-influence that leads to the initiation of drug use.
The agency is proposing for the expansion of the authorized drug testing done randomly to mandatory in schools, to include elementary pupils, starting from Grade 4.
“Since the start of the government’s war on drugs, PDEA has rescued four kids aged 10 and 11 years’ old who became users and sellers of illegal drugs. The recorded youngest pusher arrested is aged six years old. This goes to show that drug offenders are increasingly getting younger,” Aquino said.
The PDEA chief said that teachers must also be subjected to drug testing because they serve as role models and mentors for their students.
Earlier, the Department of Education (DepEd) rebuked the proposal stressing it would entail huge costs for the government.
Some sectors have also slammed the idea, saying that mandatory drug testing of children raises human rights concerns and may constitute infringement on their privacy and dignity.
Currently, Deped said that the student population of Grade 4 to Grade 12 has already reached at least 14 million but the budget would require at least P2.8 billion if everyone of them undergoes drug testing.
“I am convinced that financial cost is a necessary burden. What is of paramount importance is the health and welfare of the people, especially the youth, above all other considerations,” Aquino stressed.
PDEA said it would seek a dialogue with DepEd officials, other government agencies involved, with the participation of parents and students, to iron out kinks in the implementation of the required drug test.