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PDEA suggests surprise drug tests on candidates

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The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Thursday proposed the conduct of a surprise drug test for aspirants in next year’s mid-term elections.

“Wala naman plano. Bigla lang pumasok sa utak ko. [The drug test] should be a surprise, otherwise, we are not doing (it) properly. It doesn’t serve the purpose. Mas maganda surprise drug test sa lahat ng kandidato [There is no definite plan. It just entered my mind. The drug test should be surprise, otherwise, we are not doing it properly. It doesn’t serve the purpose. It would be better if there would be a surprise drug test for all candidates],” PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino said in radio interview.

“Hindi ko pa alam kung legal or not. Kung ako tatanungin, mas gusto ko yung ganun (I am not sure yet if this is legal or not. If you ask me, I would rather it happens),” he added.

In a related development, the Dangerous Drugs Board encouraged aspiring candidates to submit to a mandatory drug testing once they are elected.

DDB Regulation No. 13, series of 2018, provides for the establishment and institutionalization of drug-free workplace policies in all government offices, including the conduct of authorized drug testing for local officials and appointive public officers.

This covers all appointive public officers in all offices, including all constitutional bodies, departments, bureaus, and agencies of the national government, government-owned- and -controlled corporations, state and local universities and colleges, and elective officials of local government units.

Any personnel found positive for use of dangerous drugs will, at first offense, will be charged with grave misconduct and may be dismissed from public service.

Heads of agencies or local chief executives who fail to formulate or implement a Drug-Free Workplace Policy within two months after the effectivity of the Board Regulation will also be penalized under Section 32, Article II of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 or Republic Act No. 9165.

A prison term of six months to four years and a fine ranging from P10,000 to P50,000 would be imposed on any person found violating any regulation issued by the Board.

“As civil servants, we must lead by example of living a healthy and drug-free lifestyle. We cannot expect the Filipino people to be drug-free if we, ourselves, are involved in these substances,” DDB Chairman Catalino Cuy said in a statement on Wednesday.

Board Regulation No. 13, series of 2018, supplements an existing regulation on a one-strike policy among government officials and employees through establishing clear protocols to ensure that the government remains drug-free.

The regulation was signed on Aug. 30 and took effect on Oct. 6 after publication in three newspapers of general circulation.

Meanwhile, Malacañang on Thursday reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s commitment to ensure clean, honest and fair elections in 2019.

“The President conveys to the nation his steadfast and unwavering commitment to strictly enforce the election laws to ensure a clean, honest and fair elections reflective of the genuine will of the electorate,” Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

Panelo said Duterte has also assured the public that his government will not tolerate offending practices that “give undue advantage to a candidate or group of candidates.”

“The Chief Executive guarantees that all laws will be implemented and applied to everyone regardless of political color or position,” he said.

He said Duterte is really committed not to allow government resources to be used during the election campaign.

“Not a single centavo from the taxpayers’ money nor any government property will be spent or used for or against a candidate,” he said.

Panelo warned officials not to hamper campaign rallies, saying the mid-term elections will serve as a vital part of the country’s democratic way of life.

“Any official that restricts the issuance of permits to peaceably assemble and to hold campaign rallies, marches and motorcades shall be held accountable before the law,” he warned.

“The President respects the right of suffrage as the hallmark of our democracy. The government will thus act accordingly to protect the sanctity of the ballot and ensure that those who will win will be proclaimed winners without delay unless restrained by the courts,” he added.

READ: Palace to PDEA: Drug tests voluntary

The period for the filing of COCs ended on Wednesday, with 152 individuals, composed of first-timers, former and incumbent senators, vying for 12 senatorial seats at stake.

Former members of Duterte’s Cabinet were among the senatorial bets.

These are former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, Presidential Political Adviser Francis Tolentino, Bureau of Corrections chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, and Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go.

Old-timers led by 94-year-old Juan Ponce Enrile and Sergio Osmeña III, also joined the senatorial race.

Other positions at stake in next year’s elections include seats for party-lists, the House of Representatives as well as provincial, city and municipal positions.

In the same press briefing, Panelo said he expects that Duterte’s candidates for senators will prevail in the 2019 midterm elections.

Panelo said that with the “rockstar” attitude of the president, the administration’s candidates would have a “very good” chance on winning the upcoming elections.

“Well, given the popularity of the President, the chances of these senatorial candidates of the administration certainly are very good,” Panelo said.

The Palace official said they will not discount the fact that some opposition candidates will also win in the elections.

On Monday, the Liberal Party of the Philippines released its line-up of eight senatorial candidates to go head-to-head with the seven Senate aspirants from the ruling party PDP-Laban.

The opposition’s list include former senator and Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Incumbent Senator Bam Aquino, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, De La Salle University Law Dean Chel Diokno, Former Bangsamoro Transition commission member Samira Gutoc, former deputy speaker Erin Tañada, and election lawyer Romy Macalintal.

Panelo said that those who will be elected, may they be a member of opposition or not, have to “cooperate” with the administration.

“Our feeling is that whoever is elected, the message of the electorate would be—we trust this administration. And, therefore, those who have been elected will have to cooperate with the administration in terms of services that will be beneficial to the electorate and the rest of the nation,” said Panelo.

The Palace official also said that aside from relying on the President’s endorsement and popularity, the administration’s senatorial aspirants are “definitely” competent enough to vie with the “Opposition 8.”

“They have their own credentials to speak of. I think they will meet the standards,” said Panelo.

The PDP-Laban’s list of senatorial aspirants include party president Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Ferdinand Pascual, Bureau of Corrections head Ronald dela Rosa, Maguindanao Rep. Zajid Mangudadatu, former Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, Jangao Leborio Jr.,  and former Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Francis Tolentino. With PNA

READ: 329 bets meet poll deadline

READ: Election to UNHRC a vote for Duterte's drug war – solon


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