Sotto hits back at CHR, NUSP on random drug testing

Published by rudy Date posted on January 23, 2009

Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chairman Vicente Sotto III slammed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) for criticizing the agency’s plan to subject students nationwide to random drug tests.

“We are not barking up the wrong tree. The problem is they are at the wrong side of the fence. Are they with us or against us?” he said in reaction to statements that DDB should be leading the campaign against big-time traffickers instead of drug users.

CHR Chairperson Leila de Lima and the NUSP said the DDB should focus on the campaign against big-time drug traffickers and leave the random testing campaign to the schools that have implemented the testing on their students for the past years.

Sotto, however, said the DDB is pushing for a program that will result in drug-free educational institutions.

He stressed the war on illegal drugs is not just against dealers but also users.

Sotto said law enforcement agencies such as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Philippine National Police – Anti-Illegal Drugs – Special Operations Task Force, and the National Bureau of Investigation have been in the forefront in the war against illegal drugs.

“(But) we cannot win the war against drugs on law enforcement alone. Part of its success is anchored on prevention and rehabilitation,” Sotto stressed.

Sotto noted the most effective tool of prevention is drug testing.

He said this allows the drug dependent to be counseled while creating awareness or a better understanding of the problem in the community level.

Sotto also stressed that in the last two years, several schools have been implementing random drug testing programs that were successful.

He said the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, and other agencies concerned have guidelines that will be followed since the goal is not to arrest students but to help them.

Sotto also dismissed the CHR’s insinuations that random drug tests for students will only be a waste of money saying the expenses will be minimal and it will be shared by agencies concerned.

“It’s only around P100 per test. Schools will not even spend anything unless they want to expand or do it on their own. Besides, it’s all worth it,” he said.

On Wednesday, the CHR asked the DDB to postpone the upcoming implementation of drug testing on students as it urged the government to be “more circumspect” and conduct a further study of the program.

The NUSP, on the other hand, said random drug tests will waste taxpayers’ money and will only benefit a few drug testing companies.

Palace firm on drug tests

Malacañang stood firm on the scheduled start of random drug testing for students next month despite the call of the CHR to postpone this because of concerns over the rights of the children.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Anthony Golez said that the issue was carefully studied by all of the concerned agencies, including the DepEd and the DDB.

Golez said the concerns raised by the CHR were understandable considering that they were not part of the formal meetings that took place.

He said that the opinions of various sides, including those against the program, were considered by the DDB before giving its recommendations to the President.

“The Feb. 2 schedule will take effect,” Golez said. –-Michael Punongbayan with Marvin Sy, Philippine Star

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