House-to-house drug tests alarm rights body

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 24 2017 01:48 PM

Policemen knock door to door and interview residents during a drug testing operation in Payatas, Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines August 23, 2017. Dondi Tawatao, Reuters

MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights on Thursday expressed concern over the reported "house-to-house" drug testing in Payatas and nearby barangays in Quezon City.

In a statement released Thursday, CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said he is worried that those that test positive for drug use would be included in a drugs watch list and might later on be killed. 

"It is a kind of intervention that, when properly applied, might be useful. Ang worry natin, kapag biglang mag-positive, masasama sila sa drug list at baka mapatay," he said.

Gascon said the drug tests in the barangay should be based on "suspicion" and not just random, as it might be violating the rights of the residents. 

He mentioned a 2014 Supreme Court decision saying: "Mandatory drug testing can never be random and suspicionless. The ideas of randomness and being suspicionless are antithetical to their being made defendants in a criminal complaint."

Gascon added that there is nothing in the law that allows the police to conduct drug tests, as only government forensic laboratories or DOH-accredited drug testing laboratories are allowed to do such.

"While the Commission recognizes the efforts of the law enforcement agents in curbing the deleterious effects of dangerous drugs, they must be constantly mindful of the reasonable limits of their authority," he said.

Residents of Payatas, the fifth most populous barangay in the country, earlier told VERA Files of cops going house-to-house, with do-it-yourself drug testing kits.

The report said a 19-year-old boy was asked to take the drug test in place of his brother who was the target of the police to take the test. It said the boy had no choice but agree to take the test. 

In an interview with ANC, Metro Manila's top cop denied the police were doing on-the-spot drug tests in Payatas. 

"They were inviting the people, the residents there, to the barangay hall. But some people they say they'd rather the policeman go to their house," said Director Oscar Albayalde of the National Capital Region Police Office.

"The motive there is to help them rehab 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 added.