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Youth group questions CHED’s drug test proposal

By Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan
December 13, 2016

QUEZON CITY – Youth activists criticized the proposal of CHED's executive director Julito Vitriolo to make drug testing, (1) a requirement for admission of all incoming Higher Education Institutions’ (HEIs) students and, (2) the retention of those currently enrolled.

The Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK) strongly denounced the proposed policy as promoting a discriminatory, stigmatizing and skewed approach to solving the drug problem, in line with the current administration’s bloody War on Drugs.

They observed how the current administration has been carrying the massive anti-drug campaign while condoning the culture of impunity, the wholesale violation of human rights, and classifying the stockpiling corpses in drug-infested and poverty-stricken areas as collateral damage.

Armed with the scalding pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte against all drug users, Vitriolo assumed a prerogative to declare the crafting of a policy of sweeping mandatory drug testing to be administered as a requirement in college admissions.

The youth group however SPARK concurs that the youth are vulnerable to drug dependence, but it maintains that bringing the War on Drugs in the campuses will not solve anything, for evidently the drug war is unwinnable. Whereas SPARK finds drug testing founded on randomness ingenuous because it does not incriminate students tested with positive results, the group says that the new policy proposed by Vitriolo is “outright unjust and discriminatory.”

The group interjects that while random drug testing is crucial to prevent further drug dependence, a non-random mandatory one administered before a student's admission to the school could be used as the sole benchmark on whether or not a student should be retained in school. This prevents the very victims of attaining a chance and exercising their primary right to education.

“Even with the rehabilitation, the stigma it would pose for the students who tested positive is also not reflective of the student’s actual drug problem,” says Clarissa Villegas of SPARK.

This is, according to SPARK, characteristic of the prevailing attitude of Filipinos towards the horrid War on Drugs.

SPARK believes that drug addiction should be treated as a solvable public health issue and cites that “addiction – or compulsive drug use despite harmful consequences – is characterized by an inability to stop using a drug; failure to meet work, social, or family obligations; and, sometimes (depending on the drug), tolerance and withdrawal. These students who are just applying for school admission may not really be exhibiting these excessive symptoms.”

Villegas suggests that if the current administration really wants to tackle the youth’s drug problem, they should also start focusing on out-of-school youths by waging a war on poverty instead.

“The right to education and the overarching need to eliminate poverty and other forms of exploitation should not be trumped by what it falsely seen as the worst problem in the status quo – the drug crisis,” she asserted.

Though schools have the right to impose distinctive requirements on students for admission, Villegas maintains that it must be just and non-discriminatory.

In relation to such a measure, SPARK fears that with Vitriolo’s proposal and the pending bill before Congress seeking to lower the age limit of criminal liability from 15 to 12 would be the “perfect combo to destroy the youth’s chances of being a productive member of society”.

The group says that the claim that this mandatory drug testing for college admissions will safeguard the HEIs incumbent students from drug use is far from established. “In addition, student applicants may not have extensively waived their rights to privacy as to be subjected to such punitive measures of the HEIs. This over-inclusive and non-random mandatory drug testing program proposed by CHED is not an effective means of dealing with the drug menace. The manifestation of reasonableness of this testing is questionable. It should not be a measure for disciplinary action as in the case when it is used as a standard for a college student’s retention, for it to be fair,” she concluded.