Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency conducts surprise drug tests on bus drivers

Aaron N. Aquino

THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency yesterday conducted simultaneous surprise mandatory drug tests on bus drivers and conductors and K9 sweeping in bus terminals, airports and seaports nationwide to ensure the safety of travelers  for the Holy Week.

PDEA Director General Aaron N. Aquino said the agency will implement  OPLAN: HULI WEEK in coordination with other government agencies as part of PDEA’s approach in reducing the demand for illegal drugs, promoting drug-free workplaces, harm-reduction and reformation.

Last month, a simultaneous drug-testing of public transport drivers  led in the identification of 56 jeepney, tricycle, van, taxi and bus drivers who are into illegal substance use after they tested positive either for marijuana or shabu.

However, the result of yesterday’s test is yet to be released.

“We are also doing this to curb incidents of vehicular accidents caused by drugged drivers and make the roads safer, especially this Lenten Season’s travel rush,” Aquino said.

The PDEA is conducting the mandatory drug-testing of drivers in coordination with the Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the Philippine National Police.

The mandatory drug testing were conducted on drivers and  those working at the Five Star Bus Terminal, DLTB Bus Terminal, Philtranco Bus Terminal and JAM Bus Terminal in Pasay City; Quezon City’s Araneta Center Bus Port, Araneta Center Bus Terminal, Bicol Isarog Bus Terminal, Raymond Bus Terminal, Dela Rosa Bus Terminal, Partas Bus Terminal, Five Star Bus Terminal, ES Transport Bus Terminal, Florida Bus Terminal, JAC Bus Terminal, Victory Liner Terminal, Dagupan Bus Terminal, DLTB Bus Terminal, and JAM Bus Terminal.

The PDEA K-9 unit is also assisting the Manila International Airport Authority and Philippine Ports Authority in sweeping the country’s high-risk airports and major seaports for illegal drugs using highly-trained dog sniffers.

“Any driver who refuses to undergo the mandatory drug test will be reported to the LTO. To those who were tested positive for drug use, their driver’s licenses will be withheld pending the issuance of clearance by the PDEA. They must undergo the rehabilitation process before reclaiming their licenses,” Aquino explained.

Personnel of PDEA’s Preventive Education and Community Involvement Service  were also present to perform on-site counselling, and help facilitate the rehabilitative treatment of drivers found positive for illegal drugs, in coordination with the Department of Health.

“There is a prevailing practice of illegal drug use among provincial bus drivers because of the nature of their work. They use dangerous drugs to stay awake, or counter fatigue, especially those driving the long haul or overnight,” Aquino said.

PDEA, in coordination with LTO and LTFRB, conducted its first simultaneous surprise mandatory drug test to bus drivers and K9 sweeping in the country’s major bus terminals, high-risk airports and seaports on October 29 to 31, 2018 under Oplan: “UNDASPOT.”

Out of the 1,691 drivers who were subjected to the drug test, 15, or 0.88 percent, were found positive for use of illegal drugs.

Last March 29, Oplan: “HARABAS” (Drug Test Muna Bago Pasada) was conducted in major PUV terminals nationwide. A total of 4,469 bus, tricycle, UV Express, taxi, and jeepney drivers have submitted themselves for drug testing, with 50, or 1.12 percent, yielding positive results for drug use.

PDEA also implemented Oplan: Huli Week to conduct surprise K9 sweeping operations to detect concealed illegal drugs in various bus and van terminals, and high-risk airports and major seaports  since  illlegal drug traffickers may take advantage of the bustling activity surrounding these passenger terminals to transport prohibited drugs such as shabu and marijuana, Aquino said

The other PDEA Regional Offices are also conducting Oplan: Huli Week in their respective areas of responsibility with the support of concerned government agencies.

“While the rest of the nation observe Holy Week, Oplan: Huli Week is our humble contribution in keeping our traveling kababayans and the roads safer during these solemn times,” Aquino said.

Oplan: Huli Week is being implemented in accordance to the provisions of Republic Act No.10586, or the “Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013”, or “An Act Penalizing Persons Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, Dangerous Drugs, and Similar Substances, and for Other Purposes.

Aquino said he has ordered the mandatory drug testing of drivers due to the increasing number of road traffic accidents caused by drivers who are under the influence of illegal drugs.
As a rule, any person in the country who test positive for substance abuse need to undergo rehabilitation for at least six months. “The safety of the riding public is our primary concern and this program will serve as our revalidation effort on the alleged illegal drug use by drivers of public transportation and at the same time, promote a drug-free public transport system all over the country,” the PDEA chief said.

With Jun I. Legaspi