Briones: Testing positive

Publio Briones

AND then there are 42.

I’m referring to the number of employees at the Cebu City Government who have so far tested positive for drug use since the City Office for Substance Abuse Prevention (Cosap) started conducting surprise drug tests on Nov. 8, 2019.

There used to be 37 when SunStar Cebu reported that five employees under the City Market Division resigned after failing the test last Nov. 23.

I expect the number to rise in the coming weeks since Cosap is not done testing all the City Government’s around 5,000 regular and casual workers. I heard no one is exempt. Even elected officials have to undergo the test.

Cosap head Jonah John Rodriguez said they’re only implementing City Ordinance 1829 that requires all City Hall employees to undergo compulsory drug testing. The ordinance, which was passed in 2000, also requires Cosap to conduct random drug tests.

This is not a political witch hunt. It doesn’t matter which party an employee belongs to, but if he, or she, tests positive, there will be consequences.

Just ask the 13 who will soon find themselves out of work. Mayor Edgardo Labella has already ordered the Human Resources Development Office to issue a notice of termination to them.

Eight are from the Department of Engineering and Public Works, two from the Department of General Services, two from the Parks and Playgrounds Office and one from the Department of Social Welfare and Services.

I don’t know if they’ll still get their 13th-month pay or their P20,000 Christmas bonus.

Although the former is mandated by law, their offense is pretty serious. In fact, they’re lucky they’re only getting fired.

“None has been meted a different penalty other than termination. We can only investigate administratively, pursuant to our mandate,” said City Attorney Rey Gealon.

I still don’t get it. Did these people think they could get away with their addiction?

Even before Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency, he had warned that he would go after people involved in illegal drugs, whether they were users or sellers. The guy was and is serious. Didn’t they notice the body count rise in the government’s crackdown?

Oh, who am I kidding?

Of course, these people don’t care. They aren’t in their right minds. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be doing drugs, knowing full well they were risking their employment, not to mention their lives.

Still, I shouldn’t be quick to judge. I don’t have all the facts. There might have been circumstances that drove them to drug use. Again, I don’t know. But what I do know is their families will suffer because of their actions.