Tak­ing the High Road

Is it ok to have Garde four stu­dents and above to un­dergo a manda­tory drug test?

Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION - Radzini OLEDAN roledan@gmail.com

In what came in as a sur­prise, the So­cial Weather Sta­tion (SWS) sur­vey re­leased on Wed­nes­day this week, showed that 51 per­cent of the 1,500 adult re­spon­dents agreed that drug tests be made manda­tory for Grade 4 stu­dents and older pupils.

Grade 4 stu­dents are usu­ally 10 years old. “Much too young,” if the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice (PNP) chief would as­sess, to be in­cluded in the manda­tory drug test.

The pro­posal was most wel­comed in the Visayas where 69 per­cent of the re­spon­dents agreed, fol­lowed by Metro Manila (53 per­cent) and in Min­danao with 52 per­cent. One would not be privy as to the in­stru­ment and the pro­file of those who were in­cluded in the study but if by the re­sult of the sur­vey would show, this means that most of the re­spon­dents be­lieve that manda­tory tests could be done on chil­dren.

By what ba­sis or data avail­able, no one knows. One could only sur­mise that th­ese 1,500 adults re­spon­dents could have just been asked on whether they agree or not on manda­tory tests. Sim­ple.

There was no need for them to be aware of the pos­si­ble reper­cus­sion of the manda­tory drug test on chil­dren. As it was a sur­vey, it was not within the am­bit of the SWS to in­tro­duce the frame­work of child-friendly poli­cies or child-cen­tered gov­er­nance which I thought most of the gov­ern­ment agen­cies are wellaware of.

Some agen­cies may be led by the good in­ten­tion of “sav­ing chil­dren” but may be act­ing out of pure de­sire to just iden­tify schools with high per­cent­age of drug users, with­out much thought of putting in place a clear child-cen­tered in­ter­ven­tion plan.

Good thing that the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Leonor Bri­ones has stood her ground on the need to change the law be­fore the pro­posed manda­tory drug test­ing for school chil­dren can be im­ple­mented.

Bri­ones has pointed out that a sur­prise drug test­ing among sec­ondary and ter­tiary stu­dents is enough to de­ter­mine the sever­ity of drug cases in schools and uni­ver­si­ties. The Com­pre­hen­sive Dan­ger­ous Drug Act of 2002 only au­tho­rizes drug test­ing for sec­ondary and ter­tiary level stu­dents.

The DepEd said that the plan for manda­tory drug test­ing will cost the gov­ern­ment P2.8 bil­lion to test some 14-mil­lion stu­dents from Grade 4 to Grade 12. Would the gov­ern­ment be ready to spend that much? Who would profit from this test­ing, given that this will in­volve young school chil­dren who are most likely to come out clean.

And this is where the im­por­tant ques­tion comes in: What about the con­sent of th­ese school chil­dren? What would hap­pen to them af­ter they are sub­jected to this process? Would any one care to con­sider lis­ten­ing to their voices? They mat­ter too.

The de­sire to have an en­vi­ron­ment safe for both chil­dren and adults, lies on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ev­ery­one. The bet­ter op­tion to cur­tail the drug prob­lem will al­ways hinge on pro-ac­tive in­ter­ven­tion for con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion among chil­dren and youth, in­clud­ing psy­cho-so­cial and com­mu­nity sup­port for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

How many mi­nors are in­volved in drug ad­dic­tion to war­rant this pro­posal to sub­ject ev­ery school chil­dren to manda­tory test­ing?

The pro­tec­tion of chil­dren does not come in vi­o­la­tion of their dig­nity as a per­son. Let us not wish them to be sub­jected to this gru­el­ing process of prov­ing them­selves clean of drugs. There may be other op­tions that could be more ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive, one that is thor­oughly stud­ied, backed up by data and well-planned among other gov­ern­ment agen­cies in­volved. This, in con­sul­ta­tion with other com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing chil­dren could be the high road.

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