By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
An association of private schools expressed support to the new guidelines issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) regarding the conduct of drug testing of students in all higher education institutions (HEIs) starting next academic year.
Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) legal counsel Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada, in statement, said that association supports the CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 18 series of 2018 issued by CHED Chairman Prospero De Vera III which contains the implementing guidelines for the conduct of drug testing of students in all HEIs.
COCOPEA is considered the “unifying voice” of private education in the Philippines with more than 2,000 member-institutions and is made up of five educational associations: Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Universities (ACSCU); Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP); Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU); Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities (PAPSCU); and the Technical-Vocational School Associations of the Philippines (TEVSAPHIL).
Estrada said the position of the COCOPEA is anchored on three grounds: 1) the CMO “shall not go beyond” the Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; 2) the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Social Justice Society versus Dangerous Drugs Board are followed; and, 3) the “constitutional guarantee of academic freedom of HEIs is recognized.”
While the drug testing is mandatory for all HEIs, Estrada clarified that the “actual testing is random.” He noted that the RA 9165 only requires mandatory random drug testing in all secondary and tertiary schools. “Under the law, while it is mandatory for all schools to implement this drug testing policy, the actual conduct of the drug testing of students must be random,” he said.
Estrada also noted that in Social Justice Society vs Dangerous Drugs Board in 2008, the Supreme Court – in upholding the constitutionality of RA 9165 – clarified that the drug test “should be random, suspicion less, and should not be used for apprehension and prosecution of students like criminals.”
Under CHED’s CMO No. 18, Estrada noted that the government – through CHED – does not implement a mandatory drug testing of all students. “It merely reiterates the mandatory random drug testing policy of the government as provided for under RA 9165 and the past issuances of the Dangerous Drugs Board in the conduct of drug testing in all schools,” he said. “Mandatory random drug testing as provided in RA 9165 simply means that it is mandatory for all schools to implement a drug testing policy, but the actual drug test on students is conducted randomly,” he added.
Estrada also noted that the CMO No. 18 “does not preclude mandatory drug testing of students” in the HEIs. “This is rightfully so because the source of this policy-making authority of private HEIs is not CHED, but the constitutionally guaranteed academic freedom of all institutions of higher learning,” he said.
As an example, Estrada cited that “it is usual practice in several private HEIs to implement mandatory drug testing of its student athletes and those who represent the school in extra-curricular activities; or even in curricular programs such as mandatory drug testing of Criminology students.”
Meanwhile, Estrada explained there are “variety of reasons” that can be articulated to justify mandatory drug testing in the private HEIs in its exercise of academic freedom. This may include:
“addressing student discipline and behavior; preventing substances that can impair student performance”; “student security and safety in the locality”; and “assuring that students in extracurricular activities are effective role models e.g. student athletes.”