MANILA (UPDATE) - Drivers of public utility vehicles across the country underwent a mandatory drug test on Friday.
The test is part of "Oplan Harabas, Drug Test Muna Bago Pasada" campaign of the government led by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), Land Transportation Office (LTO), and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
PDEA Chief Aaron Aquino said the operation aims to protect drivers from road accidents, noting that over 11,000 drivers have been arrested for being drug users and peddlers.
"Para maging safe ang ating commuters, huwag sila (drivers) matakot kasi confidential ito... Tutulungan namin sila ma-rehabilitate para makabalik siya (ang driver) sa trabaho," Aquino said.
(For the safety of our commuters, drivers shouldn't be scared since the test is confidential. We will help them with rehabilitation so they can return to work.)
"They think (pag) gumamit ng ilegal na droga kayang-kaya nila mag-drive continuously without sleep. Ang side effect nun, magkakaroon ng disgrasya," he added.
(Drivers think that when they use illegal drugs, they can drive continuously without sleep. The side effect is they can cause accidents.)
The anti-drug agency found that drivers often use "shabu" or crystal meth to stay awake during long work hours.
The LTO said drivers have no reason to refuse drug tests.
Under Republic Act 10586 or the anti-drunk driving law, the LTO is authorized to conduct random terminal inspections and quick random tests of public utility drivers.
"Its random, mandatory...We will initiate revocation procedures if they refuse. We will confiscate the driver's license, and if they test positive, we will file a case," said Roberto Valera, chief of the LTO's Field Enforcement Division.
Those with a professional driver's license may be penalized with perpetual revocation of their license while non-professional driver's license holders found to be under the influence of drugs may face up to a year of suspension upon conviction, Valera added.
'PROCEED WITH CAUTION'
The Commission on Human Rights meanwhile urged the government to "proceed with caution" in the conduct of drug tests.
"As employers, companies have every right to want to ensure a safe and effective workplace. However, should they push forward with mandatory drug testing, it should be mindful of the proper standards of confidentiality and be done within the bounds of the law," the commission said in a statement Friday.
It added that government agencies should observe due process in the conduct of drug tests.