By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – A group of human rights lawyers assailed the holding of so-called “voluntary” drug testing in an urban poor community in Payatas, Quezon City as a “fishing expedition” that violates the right to privacy, presumption of innocence, and basic human dignity.
In a statement, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) called these voluntary drug testing as “practically coercive” and violates the people’s constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and against self-incrimination.
Residents of the urban poor community in Payatas, Quezon City have been dealing with door-to-door drug testing being conducted by the Quezon City Police since June. In a Philippine Star report, a village official said that those who tested positive are placed on their watch list.
Since June last year, thousands have been killed in police anti-drug operations, ranging from 4,000 as documented by police, up to 12,000 as estimated by human rights groups. Many of those slain were in the village watch list.
Rights lawyers added that these drug tests are inadmissible in court because the tests were taken by non-experts and without a counsel. They also described the voluntary drug testing as “anti-poor and discriminatory.”
“Why Payatas where the shirtless and shoeless hoi polloi live? Are they going to do the same in the gated posh villages and upscale condominiums? The point is, the dubious police operation only targets those without power, wealth or connections. But conducting such drug tests even in the rich enclaves does not make it right either,” NUPL said.
The Quezon City Police District has announced that it will stop its house-to-house drug testing in Payatas due to the widespread criticisms it has received.
Consistent with President Duterte’s War on Drugs, students will also be subjected to random, mandatory drug testing. Government employees in various agencies were also made to undergp such tests.
“If these overzealous roving armed bands don’t stop soon, we will go to court even as experience has proven that public pressure, protest or clamor have worked even more effectively and expeditiously to shoot down abuse of power,” NUPL said.