Students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) were shocked when a random drug test was conducted at its campus in the Santa Mesa district of Manila yesterday.
According to PUP president Emmanuel de Guzman, the students were informed about the possibility of random drug testing as early as five months ago. The testing is in compliance with Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Memo Order No. 18 which requires higher education institutions to conduct random drug tests on their campuses. CHED is the government agency responsible for overseeing public and private colleges and universities in the Philippines.
“We disseminated the information [about the drug test] within the PUP. We held orientations, proper information dissemination,” De Guzman said. If a student tested positive for drugs he said that “they could be suspended but they will not be dismissed.”
However, De Guzman said that those who refused to take the test will not be allowed to enroll in the university again, reported ABS-CBN News. Around 800 students were told that they have to take the test.
Jonero Dacula, PUP’s Student Council President, told Coconuts Manila in a phone interview that, despite the administration’s warning that a drug test would be conducted, many students were caught unaware.
“There were students who were fearful, nervous, and had panic attacks yesterday,” he said.
He said that PUP’s administration reminded the student council of the drug test on Wednesday night, but did not divulge specific details. “The mechanism, the guidelines, how the tests will be conducted, we were not informed. They also told us that the tests would only be conducted in two colleges, but on Thursday, they had tests done in five colleges,” he said.
Students from the colleges of engineering, fine arts, communication, tourism, and the institute of technology were picked from a list and were told to undergo a test conducted by a third party hired by PUP, Dacula said.
“When they were asked to do the tests, they were not made to sign anything. If they refused, some of the facilitators of the tests allegedly said, ‘You don’t want to do this. That means you’re using drugs.'”
Dacula also wondered why officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP), some of whom were armed, had to be present at yesterday’ tests. He said that a rule bars the police from entering the school’s campus without approval of the administration.
“If they were allowed by the administration to enter the campus, we were not told about it,” he said.
The student council has requested a dialogue with PUP’s administration about the drug tests. Coconuts Manila has gotten in touch with President De Guzman but his staff said he is unavailable for an interview.
Yesterday’s random drug test occurred at the same time pro-administration Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa has been conducting a Senate inquiry into allegations that leftist groups are infiltrating schools such as PUP and the University of the Philippines to recruit students into their ranks. While he said that the inquiry was not meant to suppress student activism, dela Rosa has suggested that teachers who encourage students to join anti-government protests should be fired, reported The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
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This article, Students fearful and in shock over random drug testing conducted at Polytechnic University of the Philippines, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!