Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pagadian media agree on drug testing

MEDIA personalities in Pagadian find it necessary to undergo drug testing, whether there are suspected users or not, as a move of support to the Provincial Government’s campaign against illegal drug use.

However, most of the journalists asked by this paper replied that the government may shoulder the expenses for the drug test.

To recall, January last year, Gov. Aurora Cerilles staged her all-out war against illegal drugs in her turf and promised to rid Zamboanga del Sur of the drug menace by 2010.

The concern of placing themselves for drug testing came out after rumors circulated that there are drug users among media practitioners in Pagadian.

Opinions among the media circle said that if such rumors continue to persist, this might jeopardize local journalists’ careers and credibility.

Charnyl Albarracin, president of the Zamboanga del Sur-Pagadian City Press Club Inc. (ZPPI), applauded media’s decision, saying drug use should not be tolerated also among the fourth estate.

“Dako kaayo ko’g uyon to make it fair to all. Dapat walang pinipili ang batas,” he told this paper.

For the past year, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has conducted its random drug testing on students and faculty members in more than 1,700 colleges and universities all over the country.

The CHED said that students who test positive would undergo counseling and would be subject to regular monitoring. Habitual users would be made to undergo drug rehabilitation.

Aside from students, the government has made it compulsory to prescribe drug testing on drivers, government employees, athletes, policemen, military and other law enforcement agencies, school faculty members and even candidates who will run for an elective post.

Cerilles, herself, said last year that a random drug testing on all Capitol officials and employees is being mandated in Zambosur.

The governor added this illustrates the Provincial Government’s attitude that the fight against drugs must start at her own front yard.

Albarracin comments media’s offer for voluntary drug testing is a show of support and as an example to the public that addressing the problem of drug use in the population can be attained with the community’s willingness to help.

No matter the profession or status in the community, drug tests should be implemented, concurs Jong Cadion, president of the local chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

Approximately, there are 40 media practitioners in Pagadian City, who are pledging members of ZPPI and NUJP, while a few are classified as public press officers and freelance journalists.

Both media organizations, however, were silent on what kind of sanctions will be imposed on colleagues who might be tested positive on a certain drug test.

For his part, board member Ernesto Mondarte, who is also the action officer of the Task Force Droga created by Cerilles to run after the illegal drug trade in the province, praised media’s move considering that the media has now been included as a member of the Provincial Anti-Dangerous Drugs Abuse Council (PADDAC).

He added that he will arrange a meeting with the media in the near future to talk about the suggestion and other discussions related to the province’s anti-drug campaign.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), meanwhile, has on their watch list some 200 drug personalities in Zamboanga del Sur.