DOH’s plan to spend P90 million for random drug testing

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The Department of Health (DOH) plans to spend P90 million on random drug testing for high school and college students. Supposedly, the money is earmarked to develop manpower and laboratory resources for the test which is expected to give teeth to the fight against drugs in the country.

On the basis of trying to find out the prevalence of drug abuse the Commission of Higher Education (CHED,) DOH and its secretary Dr. Francisco Duque believe the testing is justified. They chorused it is needed in setting up strategies in controlling the problem as Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo steps up her campaign against illegal drugs.

According to Inquirer (01/29/09 Pazzibugan, D,) the test will be done in the next 7 to 9 months on 87,000 students from 8,750 high schools and 2,000 colleges nationwide. Based on past random drug testing, about 0.8% of 8,670 high school students and 0.5% of 7,499 college students tested positive for drugs. Notably, those who tested positive (majority use marijuana) aren’t a lot compared to many Filipinos who are sick and in need of urgent medical attention.

Does it mean that the government is willing to spend P1,034.48 for every student in order to track down about 696 students, the 0.8% who are expected to be positive in the test? If they find out who are positive, do the authorities have additional money to “treat & rehabilitate” them? Will the money for drug testing be better used for other serious health problems that involve a larger number of people who may need more medical attention—-i.e. tuberculosis, malaria, dengue? Or can funds be used to improve the facilities of schools?

Why is testing being planned for the teachers and not for other professionals? Why doesn’t the government directly run after the drug dealers? How come only the students and teachers are being singled out to undergo the test? Why can’t they not include the regular workers, unemployed, drivers, military personnel etc.? What are the safeguards that medical information culled from the testing will be handled confidentially and not be used or abused for other purpose? Isn’t privacy violated and civil liberties invaded when this testing is done?

The above questions may help in deciding if the controversial drug testing plan is worthwhile to pursue. At this time of economic crisis, wise spending can go a long way in helping the neediest. If a law on drug testing is to be applied fairly, it must cover the entire population and not single out a particular group. Organizations like the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) have valid reasons to oppose the rationale and legality of this plan. (Photo Credit: Mooosh; Suntoksabwan; Latin Snake) =0=

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