Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency ferrets out drug-using bus drivers, conductors

Aaron N. Aquino

FIFTY-THREE public transport employees including 35 bus drivers tested positive for substance abuse during a mandatory surprise drug testing conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency on Monday, underscoring the need to address the danger posed by drivers to the public each time they are high on drugs, specifically shabu, PDEA Chair Director General Aaron N. Aquino announced yesterday.

The number actually brought to 109 the total of public transport workers who were found positive for shabu or marijuana use when they were subjected to a mandatory drug test by the PDEA since last month.

According to Aquino, the 53 were positive for illegal drug use out of the 7,729 workers or employees who underwent the PDEA-supervised drug testing as part of its Oplan: Huli Week program on Monday.

Nine of the drivers are from Metro Manila, three from Cagayan Valley, five from Calabarzon region, three from Bicol region, four each from Central Visayas and Southern Mindanao and  two from Northern Mindanao.

The drug tests were conducted in 89 major public transportation terminals nationwide. Out of the nearly 7,800 tested, 53 employees, 35 of whom are bus drivers, 17 bus conductors and one a bus dispatcher were found positive for the use of methamphetamine hydrochloride, or shabu.

Aquino said the results were still undergoing confirmatory tests in PDEA forensic laboratories as of press time.

The official said they are implementing their Oplan: Huli Week in coordination with other government agencies as part of PDEA’s holistic approach in reducing the demand for illegal drugs, promoting drug-free workplaces, harm-reduction and reformation.

“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.

Aquino 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.

The official said that based on PDEA’s data monitoring from January 2018 to January 2019, 3,654 drivers, bus conductors, and dispatchers were arrested for violation of Republic Act 9165, or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002. 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.

“Any driver who 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 noted.

The official is also leading the inspection of bus terminals, airports and seaports to ensure the safety of travelers this Holy Week.  

Last month, simultaneous drug-testing of public transport drivers across the country led to 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.

“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.