UP rejects proposed mandatory drug tests
◢ DANIEL BOONE
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has recommended mandatory drug testing in tertiary schools, but UP has so far struck down the proposal, saying that it violates students’ rights.
In an August 2 memorandum, CHED “strongly encouraged” Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to conduct mandatory drug tests as an admission and retention requirement, in line with the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Students and student groups in UP Diliman were among the first to criticize the proposed policy, saying it is a way to monitor and repress students and student organizations.
“Isa itong paraan para tiktikan ang mga kabataan sa loob ng pamantasan at maaaring maging leeway upang mai-tag [sila] bilang mga drug addicts,” said League of Filipino Students Chairperson Ivy Taroma.
More so, requiring drug tests may endanger the lives of students, said Journalism freshman Reneza Beatrice Pinlac, hoping UP will instead intensify its efforts to safeguard all the communities in the campus.
Meanwhile, the UP administration needs to clarify the legal basis of the policy before it can officially decide on CHED’s recommendation, said UP Vice President for Public Affairs Jose Dalisay, Jr.
Before the official memorandum was released, chancellors and other UP officials have already expressed opposition to the policy which was seen to compromise the rights of students and to further lead to corruption, said Dalisay, citing a dialogue with the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC).
The proposed policy requires consultation with the student body and approval from the board of trustees, regents, or directors. Only physicians accredited by the Department of Health are eligible to conduct the tests, and the results should be treated with utmost confidentiality, according to the memorandum.
Students testing positive in drugs shall be subject to confirmatory tests to further examine and determine if they are drug dependents. There are no clear guidelines regarding the procedure of the confirmatory tests, but appropriate sanctions, interventions, or rehabilitations based on the HEI’s policies shall be imposed on students found to be drug dependents, the memorandum states.
In UP, use of prohibited drugs is punishable from one semester suspension to permanent expulsion, as stated in Section 1.4 D, Article IV of the 2012 Code of Student Conduct.
Youth and student groups have also condemned the policy’s fee requirements. Student applicants of HEIs are to shoulder the drug-testing fee before their admission, as stated in the memorandum.
“This invasion of schools is also to add financial burdens to the students and their parents, as testing fees could possibly mean another round of other school fees [for them],” said Representative Sarah Jane Elago of Kabataan Partylist in a statement.
But these problems are only aggravated by the possibility of the policy to legitimize Oplan Tokhang in schools and expose students as targets of Duterte’s war against drugs, said Mark Vincent Lim, National Union of Students of the Philippines spokesperson.
Within a year, there have been more around 8,000 drug-related killings in more than 6,000 police operations, according to human rights watchdog Amnesty International. Even UP Diliman campus is not safe from the killings as manifested by 12 civilian casualties of police operations of the Quezon City Police District.
Both Oplan Tokhang and anti-drug operations within the campus are forms of state’s violations of human rights, said Gabby Lucero, Community Rights and Welfare Head of the University Student Council (USC). Moreover, students who are affected by drug abuse should not be seen as criminals but as individuals who need rehabilitation and help from experts, said USC Students’ Rights and Welfare Head Cassandra Deluria.
“Kung mayroong estudyanteng lumapit sa USC para makahingi ng tulong, maaari namin silang i-refer sa mga institusyon kung saan sila makakakuha ng tulong at rehabilitation,” she added. “Maaaring lumapit ang mga estudyante sa University Health Service, either for primary care sa kaso ng acute intoxication o para makakuha ng referral for a rehabilitation program para sa kaso ng pagtigil ng chronic use.”
Meanwhile, the country’s perennial problem on drugs can only be solved by addressing poverty, which is its root cause, Lim said. “If Duterte is serious in addressing the problem of drug addiction, he should destroy the foundation of poverty by taking a step [towards] pro-people socio-economic reforms such as providing free education, social services, jobs, and living wages.” ■
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