Briones: Law should be changed before PDEA can implement mandatory drug tests

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) - Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones said a change in the law is needed before the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) can implement its proposed mandatory drug testing for school children.

Briones said the R.A. 1965 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 should be changed first before PDEA can proceed on implementing mandatory drug testing for students 9 years old and above.

PDEA director general Aaron Aquino had earlier proposed that students and personnel of both public and private schools should undergo random drug testing, in line with the current administration's campaign against illegal drugs.

But the education chief had stood her ground against the proposed tests for grade school children when she met with officials of PDEA, the Philippine National Police (PNP), and Dangerous Drugs Board Tuesday.

Briones was firm with her stand that surprise drug testing for secondary and tertiary education students is enough to determine the severity of drug cases in schools and universities.

"The law will have to be changed because the law is very clear that random testing can only be done on secondary or high school students," Briones told reporters during the pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) forum on Wednesday.

She also added that there was a discrepancy between PDEA and DepEd's data on minor drug users, as the former recorded an increase of drug users among the youth.

"Ang sinasabi nila pataas nang pataas ang numbers," Briones said. "Sa amin, mababang-mababa ang sa amin. So may disparity."

[Translation: What they (PDEA) are saying is that the numbers are increasing. On the other hand, our data shows low numbers. So there's disparity.]

"At tsaka makikita natin na 'yung prevalence is concentrated in particular regions. Hindi 'yung buong bansa."

[Translation: We can see the prevalent (data) is concentrated in particular regions, and not the whole country.]

Briones was among the cabinet members who attended 'Tatak ng Pagbabago,' the pre-SONA 2018 forum which took place at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay. The forum tackled key policies, programs, initiatives, and issues of the different sectors.

Other officials who were present include Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Social Welfare and Development Acting Secretary Virginia Orogo, Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, Interior and Local Government Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and Commission on Higher Education Chairman Popoy De Vera.