Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency needs all the help it can get in unmasking drug-using drivers

CONGRATULATIONS are in order for the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency headed by retired Police General Aaron Aquino of Philippine Military Academy ‘Sandiwa’ Class of 1985 for their no-nonsense effort in unmasking public utility transport drivers who are into illegal drugs.

I would say that the country owes a lot to the Agency for trying its very best to rid our streets of bus, truck, jeepney, FX, taxi tricycle and even pedicab drivers as well as other public transport workers who are using shabu or marijuana.

Nobody is safe  in the hands of these drug-using public transport drivers in the event they go on a ‘trip’ and kill, rob or rape any target of opportunity. Add to that the fact that while ‘high on drugs,’ their altered senses may cause them to commit grave driving errors that would be too costly for innocent people on the streets and even those sleeping in the confines of their homes.

The latest is the case of a woman who jumped out of the window of a running taxi in Cubao, Quezon City and whose feet was nearly run over by the vehicle the other day, very much frightened after the driver who was armed with a knife tried to rob her. Q.C. policemen tracked down and arrested the driver in his house in San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan where he admitted to be a shabu user who tried to rob his passenger after losing his money while gambling, said QCPD director, Brigadier General Joyet Esquivel.

This is the very same reason why I am suggesting to our lawmakers that drivers who figure in deadly road mishaps, specifically drivers of buses, jeepneys, taxis, trucks and tricycles  to be automatically subjected to a drug test to determine if they are drug-users.

PDEA’s Aquino knows this I believe. Last Thursday, he led his men in subjecting public utility drivers working in all major ports in the country to a mandatory drug test. As a result, 37 delivery truck drivers and 9 truck helpers working at the Manila’s North and South Harbors were found positive for shabu and marijuana use.

Overall, 49 truck drivers, 9 truck helpers and 11 tricycle drivers out of the 5,009 port workers tested for drugs by the PDEA last Thursday were found to be in substance abuse during initial screening of their urine specimen.

I suggest that our authorities also conduct a background check on the driving offenses committed by those who tested positive for drugs amid the possibility that while high on shabu or marijuana and driving monster trucks with container vans, they may have figured in road accidents which killed people or resulted in major damages although they were settled amicably.

Let’s produce the traffic records of these drivers, particularly those driving trucks inside and outside our port areas knowing fully well that many of them act as ‘King of the Roads’ and will not give even an inch to drivers of small cars or motorcycles resulting in deaths and serious injuries and if not, bruised egos.

Aquino said that 11 tricycle drivers out of the 1,507 working in different ports across the country likewise tested positive for drugs use. Had not been for the PDEA, we have so many drivers who imperil the lives and safety of their passengers, women and children in particular.

The licenses of the drivers who tested positive for drug use were confiscated by the Land Transportation Office and would only be released to them as soon as they present a clearance from the PDEA that they have already underwent drug treatment and rehabilitation.

Out of the 5,009 public transport workers screened for drugs, here is very interesting revelation: 49 delivery truck drivers, 11 tricycle drivers, 9 truck helpers, 9 van drivers, 5 jeepney drivers, 3 multi-cab drivers, 2 mini-bus drivers and 1 truck employee were found using prohibited drugs.

Aquino said that the program will be done on a monthly basis  to help curb down road accidents caused by drivers under the influence of illegal drugs. For the information of the public, drugged drivers have been blamed for the increasing number of road traffic accidents in our country.

The figures on drug-using drivers last Thursday are real: 46 in Metro Manila, 3 in Region 1, 2 in Region 2, 3 in Region 4-A, 8 in Region 5, 3 each in Regions 7 and 8, 9 in Region 9, 6 in Region 10, 2 in Region 11, 1 each in Region 12 and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and 2 in Cordillera Autonomous Region.

Last March 29, a total of 50 bus, tricycle, UV Express, taxi, and jeepney drivers were tested positive out of 4,469 who underwent drug testing in 54 major passenger terminals nationwide.

Last April 15, 55 bus and van drivers, and conductors were tested positive for illegal drug use out of 7,910 who undergone the drug testing in 89 major public transportation terminals nationwide.

Last October 30, the PDEA’s Oplan: Undaspot resulted in the identification of 120 public transport drivers and conductors who were using drugs. A total of 1,691 provincial bus drivers and conductors were tested for drugs that day.

Based on PDEA’s data monitoring from January 2013 to January 2019, 11,609 drivers, bus conductors, and dispatchers were arrested for violation of Republic Act 9165, or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

From January 2018 to January 2019, 3,654 drivers were arrested for violation of the anti-drug law. In the second semester of 2018, 1,902 of them were arrested, an increase of 37 percent from the 1,386 arrests in the first semester. The record is horrifying and we the public and all other  concerned government agencies in particular must all act now and help the PDEA address the problem.