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Walang pake! PDEA insists on mandatory drug tests, no matter how much it costs

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By Xave Gregorio

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) director general Aaron Aquino said he does not care how much his agency’s proposed mandatory drug testing would cost, even if the Department of Education (DepEd) said the program has a nearly P3 billion price tag.

Asked by a reporter in a chance interview at the sidelines of the PDEA’s 16th anniversary on Friday (June 22) for comment on the DepEd’s projected cost of mandatory drug testing, Aquino said, “I don’t care. Sabi ko nga, ‘wag nila isipin kung ano ang gagastusin.”

“Ang pera hindi katumbas ng isang bata na pinalaki mo, magiging adik, magiging pusher, eventually magiging big, big problem of the government in the future,” he continued.

When asked by Politiko if he is concerned if the possible funding for mandatory drug testing of students and teachers could instead be used to provide free education, Aquino said, “So mas gusto mo ‘yung free education kaysa ‘yung bata mapariwara?”

He was repeatedly asked about the possible costs of the PDEA’s proposal to test all students and teachers from Grades 4 and up for drugs, but brushed these off every time.

“‘Wag natin isipin kasi ‘yung gagastusin. Walang kwenta ‘yung gastusin eh. Isipin natin we are saving lives of children,” he said.

He added that children who become addicted to drugs would become “our very enemies” if they are not treated.

“Ito ‘yung mga drug lords, ito siguro ang mama-massacre ng inyong pamilya paglaki. ‘Pag hindi nagamot itong mga batang ito, kung meron man sa mga private or public schools,” Aquino said.

The proposal was floated by Aquino after the PDEA nabbed a 10-year-old for drugs.

But its possible cost was among the issues raised by politikos.

Senator Koko Pimentel pointed out that PDEA’s “brilliant idea” would cost the government a hefty sum of money for something he deems “pointless.”

“That is pointless because what is the use of the test result? [If] positive then what? And how many false or wrong positives and even negatives will our system produce?” Pimentel said in a text message to Senate reporters.

Senator JV Ejercito also said mandatory drug testing for students aged 10 and up “would cost billions.”

However, for Aquino, the cost of the PDEA’s proposed program does not matter.

“Mas importante [ba] ‘yung budget kaysa doon sa kinabukasan ng mga bata sa isang eskwelahan? So dapat timbangin lahat. Timbangin natin, ano ba ang importante, ‘yung gagastusin o ‘yung kinabukasan ng mga bata in the future na ito’y magiging biggest problem sa ating bansa?” he said.

But he said that the PDEA is not ardently pushing for mandatory drug tests for students and teachers Grades 4 and above.

“Whether it’s Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, it’s okay. Hindi naman talaga sa PDEA, sinasabing gusto namin Grade 4, gusto namin Grade 3. So it’s up to what will happen to the result to the discussion and workshop naming gagawin,” Aquino said.

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