The Philippines Supreme Court this week upheld mandatory, random, suspicionless drug testing of workers and high school and college students, but struck down as unconstitutional provisions of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that required drug tests for candidates for political office or those charged with criminal offenses.
In a unanimous decision written by Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., the court noted that the law says the random drug testing of employees "shall be undertaken under conditions calculated to protect as much as possible the employee's privacy and dignity," and that employers are not required to report positive test results to prosecutors. It also found that "the intrusion into the employee's privacy... is accompanied by proper safeguards, particularly against embarrassing leakages of test results, and is relatively minimal."
In the case of students, the high court found that drug testing was not only constitutional, but perhaps even necessary. It noted the presence of drugs in the country "that threatens the well-being of the people, particularly the youth and school children who usually end up as victims," adding that, "until a more effective method is conceptualized and put in motion, a random drug testing of students in secondary and tertiary schools is not only acceptable but may even be necessary if the safety and interest of the student population, doubtless a legitimate concern of the government, are to be promoted and protected."
Candidates for political office, however, may not be subjected to drug tests as condition of candidacy, the court held. The drug law's provisions requiring testing of candidates unconstitutionally added to the constitution's provisions defining the qualification or eligibility of candidates, the Supreme Court said.
The court was equally kind to people charged with criminal offenses, holding that they cannot be drug tested because they might incriminate themselves and because drug testing in their cases would not be random or suspicionless. "To impose mandatory drug testing on the accused is a blatant attempt to harness a medical test as a tool for criminal prosecution, contrary to the objectives of RA 9165 [the drug testing law]. Drug testing in this case would violate a person's right to privacy guaranteed under Section 2, Article III of the Constitution. Worse still, the accused persons are veritably forced to incriminate themselves," the opinion declared.