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PIA Press Release

Parents, students welcome drug test

Manila (5 February) -- The Department of Education (DepEd) on Wednesday said that parents and students welcomed the start of the random drug testing in secondary schools.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said that 85, 000 students will undergo the test until November this year.

Maria Ressa Navales, student government head of the Manggahan High School in Pasig City said that the move of the DepEd will prove to be in favor of students themselves.

"We support the random drug test program of the DepEd because it would help prevent illegal drug use," Navales added.

Another student, 15-year old Cecile Alverde said some of the students were apprehensive of the drug test though she added hastily that no one among her classmates were drug users.

"Of course, we are nervous, we don't know what might happen to us," she said as her classmates nodded in agreement.

Parents Teachers Community Association (PCTA) president Edwin Paclibar also voiced support for the program.

"This is a great program of the government and the DepEd to fight illegal drugs. The parents here support the move a hundred percent," he said.

The school was one of the seven public elementary schools that DepEd choose for the initial run of the program. Ten students from each school will undergo the drug test.

DepEd Assistant Secretary for Special Concerns Thelma Santos said that similar tests were conducted at the Potrero National High School in Malabon, Signal Village High School in Taguig, Sta. Elena High School in Marikina, Kalayaan High School in Pasay, Novaliches High School Annex and the Benigno Aquino High School in Fairview, both in Quezon City.

Students in eight private schools, namely the Immaculate Conception College, St. Peter Academy and St. Vincent De Ferrer all in Caloocan, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Valenzuela, College of St. Catherine and St. James College both in Quezon City, MCA Montessori School, Makati and the Our Lady of Pilar Montessori Center in Las Piņas will also be subjected to the test.

The drug test was witnessed by DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus, Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) Chairman Vicente "Tito" Sotto and other school officials.

Lapus and Sotto assured the parents that the rights of every individual student will not be violated during the drug test.

"Parents need not worry about children's rights being violated. The guidelines also said we will not forced student to undergo the drug test," Lapus said.

He also said that this year's drug test is much more encompassing than the previous program which only covered 9,000 students nationwide.

Sotto said the drug test is "defensive" in nature.

"This is a form of self-defense. This is the community's first line of defense against the scourge of illegal drugs. We all know that drug syndicates victimize youngsters and students that's why we are acting in self-defense," Sotto said.

Fifteen students were picked up in random by computer though only 10 were made to undergo the drug test itself.

DepEd's Santos said the five will act as "buffer" in case there are absent student in the initial 10 picked randomly.

Those found positive will be made to undergo "confirmatory" testing.

The testing team is composed of two nurses from DepEd to take urine samples, an analyst from the DOH, an encoder and another staff from DepEd to provide assistance.

Santos said Wednesday's test is just the start of a string of test that DepEd and the DOH will carry out until November to cover some 85, 000 students from 8, 500 schools, Santos said.

"We will do this every day starting February 4 until March 20 and then we will go full-blast in June until November," the official said adding that on Thursday, some 20 schools will be covered by the test.

After Metro Manila, the drug testing team will proceed to Davao and Baguio to conduct similar tests.

Santos disclosed that the DepEd will spend around P25 million for the random drug testing in public and private secondary schools nationwide with a P100-budget allotted for each student.

"The budget for the drug testing kit for each student is P30. The confirmatory testing, the forms, and everything else will amount to P100 per student," Santos added.

Santos however stressed that only shabu (metamphetamine hydrochloride) and marijuana can be detected from the drug tests, since it would be too expensive for the DepEd to purchase kits which can identify traces of ecstasy and cocaine, which were considered as luxury high-end drugs.

She reiterated that the result of the drug testing should not be used as basis for expulsion.

DepEd conducted a random drug test in 2003 to 2005 after study showed that drug use in six regions of the country, including the National Capital Region (NCR), increase by 10 percent.

In 2004, the DepEd, through its Health and Nutrition Center also conducted drug testing of high school students in 17 randomly selected schools in each region to determine the prevalence of drug users among students.

Likewise, during the previous drug testing only 30 students per school or a total of 9, 000 students were subjected to the test.

Earlier, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered a mandatory drug testing among students not only in secondary level but as well as college or the tertiary level after naming herself as the country's anti-illegal drug czar. (PNA) [top]

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