Random tests done to verify prevalence of drug use, not users: DepEd

By Ma. Teresa Montemayor

MANILA -- Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Briones said Friday it is too early to conclude on the effectiveness of the random-sampling done by the department as the drug testing process on high school and college students is not yet complete.

This, after Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Director General Aaron Aquino said DepEd's current system on drug testing is "ineffective as it couldn't pinpoint who should be hit by the drug test".

In a press conference at Pembo Elementary School in Makati City, Briones explained that the objective of DepEd's drug testing process is to determine the prevalence of drug use in schools in specific areas and not to determine who the drug users are.

"It is too early to say it's not effective at all...We have different numbers because we use different methods. And sampling is really acceptable, legitimate manner of determining the status of a particular phenomenon," she said.

DepEd spokesperson and Chief of Staff of the Office of Secretary Nepomuceno Malaluan explained that the sampling methodology DepEd uses for familiarity is similar to the sampling methodology done by Pulse Asia or Social Weather Stations where they can provide a representativeness of their survey with respect to the entirety of the Philippine population.

"Again, DepEd's mandate is to determine the prevalence as an input to our preventive drugs or anti-illegal drugs program. It is not to determine each and every drug user or in the entire secondary school and we also showed them the initial resource, it is a less than, even less that 1% so far, the partial result that we are getting," he said.

Recognizing the need for a single comprehensive education material on drugs, Malaluan said, DepEd will seek the support of PDEA and other agencies so that learners will be well-informed about illegal drugs use.

"In the development of such a comprehensive material, the information that was mentioned or was presented to us by the PDEA Director General can be included," he added.

When asked if she's amenable to PDEA's proposal of mandatory drug testing for high school and college students, Briones said DepEd's current drug testing process is legally allowed and that the department wants to avoid cases and protests about matters on privacy.

"They asked for our support and my answer was that I cannot make a commitment by my lonesome self. They have to do a lot of consultation with the parents, with the rest of society...and privacy is very difficult and very sensitive," she said.

If PDEA wants to push through with the proposal, Briones said it would need to propose a bill which will make drug testing mandatory for high school and college students as it involves all sectors of the society. (PNA)