No more mandatory drug tests, 2 senators insist

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Sen. Gregorio Honasan: No mandatory drug test. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Two senators have asserted that the newly enacted Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013 (R.A. 10586) effectively repealed a provision in the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act (R.A. 9165) that requires driving license applicants to pass a mandatory drug test before the license is issued.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan said Section 19 of the new law signed last month specified that the mandatory drug test set by the old law as well as other orders, and circulars inconsistent with any of the new law’s provisions “are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.”

Honasan’s statement was apparently spurred by an announcement made by Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres that the mandatory drug requirement remains in force until a set of implementing rules and regulations is issued.

Sen. Tito Sotto agreed with Honasan’s declaration, saying the mandatory drug test has become unnecessary and has even proved ineffective in the first place.

Sotto, former chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board, said drug users applying for a driver’s license simply refrain from taking these for a time before submitting their urine samples.

In a huddle with reporters, Sotto said only 0.06% of all license applicants were found positive for drug use.

“The mandatory drug test has become a waste of money for motorists as well as an ineffective requirement. Data showed that out of millions tested a mere 0.06% resulted in positive results in the drug tests conducted by the Land Transportation Office covering the period 2002 to 2010,” Sotto said.

“The low figure could be due to the fact that drug users tend to refrain from usage during the period leading to the application for or renewal of their driver’s license. They are able to come clean during the drug test. It has led to a mockery of the drug test requirement,” he added.

Besides, Sotto said the mandatory drug test in fact was an added burden to responsible motorists, as they shell out money for something that drug users could easily get away with.

Applicants for a driver’s license are charged between P300 and P350 for the drug test.

Sotto’s observation reportedly drew protests from LTO officials who claim more than 6,000 license applicants were turned down after they tested positive.

Sotto countered that the new law on drunk and drugged driving requires apprehended drivers to pass certain tests if authorities observe that their behavior is consistent with substance abuse.

“RA 10586 states that drug testing will only be conducted for those driving under the influence (DUI) as determined by law enforcement authorities based on certain manifestations, like overspeeding, weaving, lane straddling, swerving and others,” Sotto explained.

“The law provides for mandatory tests for drivers involved in vehicular accidents to determine if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” the senator pointed out.

“If the driver fails in the sobriety tests, it shall be the duty of the law enforcement officer to implement the mandatory determination of the driver’s blood alcohol concentration level through the use of a breath analyzer or similar measuring instrument,” he added.

Honasan said that contrary to the LTO’s position, “no interpretation is necessary” before the agency could do away with the mandatory drug test.

“All applicants are presumed innocent of the crime of attempting to drive under the influence of drugs, so to speak,” he said.

At present, penalties for driving under the influence or DUI range from three months in prison and a fine of P20,000 to perpetual revocation of the driver’s license, a fine of P500,000 and a longer prison term.

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