MANILA- A lawyers group on Thursday questioned house-to-house drug tests conducted by police in Payatas, Quezon City, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Metro Manila.
The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) questioned the police's choice of community, saying the "dubious" police operation only targets the powerless.
"It is anti-poor and discriminatory. Why Payatas, where the shirtless and shoeless hoi polloi live? Are they going to do the same in the gated posh villages and upscale condominiums?" NUPL said in a statement.
"The point is, the dubious police operation only targets those without power, wealth or connections. But conducting such drug tests even in the rich enclaves does not make it right either," the group added.
Carrying drug testing kits, police officers accompanied by community officials were reported going to houses in Payatas, asking residents if they were willing to submit urine samples. A barangay official said those who test positive for illegal drugs are placed on the drug watchlist.
Metro Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde on Thursday, however, denied the claim, saying the tests were aimed at helping drug users undergo rehabilitation.
"The motive there is to help them rehab[ilitate] themselves. It's not for them to be listed, not for them to be 'tokhang'-ed later on. The motive there is for them to be rehabilitated. There is an active rehab program in Quezon City," he said in an ANC Early Edition interview, referring to government's "knock and plead" operation.
The NUPL said the tests were "presumably illegal and unconstitutional" since the act is coercive. It said results of such tests are "legally useless" in court since these were taken by non-experts and without counsel.
"It violates the right to privacy, presumption of innocence, and basic human dignity," the group said.
The group also warned the police that they are willing to bring the case to court if the tests do not stop.