A national alliance of public school teachers called for the scrapping of a government plan to subject teachers and students to random drug testing.
The Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) have announced that they will implement a drug testing program in high schools, universities and colleges nationwide in response to Mrs. Gloria Arroyo’s renewed campaign against illegal drugs.
Antonio Tinio, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) chairperson said, “This random drug testing program will violate certain basic rights. First of all, it’s discriminatory. Why are teachers and students as a group being singled out for testing? Does being in school make one more likely to be a drug user?”
Tinio added, “Secondly, it’s an invasion of privacy. No one can be compelled to undergo testing without his or her consent.”
Meanwhile, Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, herself a former teacher, said, “Forcing them to undergo tests for possible substance abuse while completely ignoring their long-time call to raise their salaries is an insult to teachers.”
Tinio also questioned the effectiveness of drug testing in reducing incidences of illegal drug use in the country. “The tests should be scrapped,” said Tinio. “This early in Mrs. Arroyo’s stint as the country’s anti-drug czar, she’s already resorting to token measures which will have no real effect on the drug trade.”
He added that the funds to be used for the testing program could be put to better use such as for the training of guidance counselors, in identifying and counseling drug users in schools.
Ilagan said, “The $25 million to be set aside for this project could be better spent for the improvement of the quality of education in the country, such as for the construction of school buildings, printing of textbooks, and granting of scholarships, most especially in Mindanao.”
Tinio said further, “Instead of harassing teachers and students, subjecting them to the indignity of random drug testing, the Arroyo administration should focus on landing the ‘big fish’ in the drug trade, namely the drug lords and their protectors, including those in government. They should be arrested, prosecuted, and jailed.”
However, Tinio expressed doubt regarding the current administration’s ability to take such measures. “Can we be blamed for being skeptical, given the deep-rooted and pervasive corruption in law enforcement agencies as well as the judiciary? For that matter, how can Mrs. Arroyo herself be credible as anti-drug czar when her administration is beset with all sorts of corruption and influence-peddling scandals?”
Ilagan said the proposed mandatory drug testing for students and teachers could open up new ways for the corruption-ridden DepEd to divert a major portion of its already meager budget for 2009.(Bulatlat.com)