Palace clarifies: Proposed drug test for 2019 poll candidates yet to be reviewed

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 20 2018 01:40 PM | Updated as of Oct 21 2018 01:42 AM

MANILA - Malacañang on Saturday clarified that it would still study the proposed mandatory drug testing of 2019 election candidates.

This after the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) proposed a “surprise” drug test on candidates, while the Dangerous Drugs Board sought a mandatory drug test on officials once they get elected.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace is not fully rejecting PDEA's proposal and has yet to discuss it. He had said Friday that drug-testing must be voluntary among those running for the Senate, the House of Representatives, and local positions. 

His earlier statement had drawn flak as the war on drugs has been the administration's centerpiece campaign, with several local officials tagged in the illegal trade. 

"The Palace wishes to clarify that it does not dismiss in toto PDEA's proposal to conduct mandatory drug testing of political aspirants for next year's elections," he said in a statement.

"The Office of the President shall first consider and evaluate these in order to make a learned decision on the matter," he added.

In the meantime, Panelo said Malacañang is urging election aspirants to voluntarily submit themselves to drug testing.

Panelo explained that Malacañang sees the proposed drug test for candidates as "problematic" as the Supreme Court previously ruled that mandatory drug tests for those seeking congressional seats, whether in the Senate or the House, are unconstitutional.

"In other words, even a law directing such mandatory drug tests will be struck down as unconstitutional," he said.

He, however, noted that the top court only limited the prohibition to elective officials "whose qualifications and eligibility requirements are prescribed by the Constitution," meaning local candidates can be subject to drug tests. 

"Our take from the case is that the said testing is permitted for local government candidates because Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 has validly amended the Local Government Code in so far as their qualifications and eligibility requirements are concerned," he said.