14 Tisa workers ‘drug users’

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Monday, February 24, 2014


ALMOST 10 percent of Barangay Tisa employees tested positive for illegal drug use.

Tisa Barangay Captain and City Councilor Phillip Zafra confirmed that around 14 of the 160 barangay employees tested positive during the surprise drug testing conducted by the City Office for Substance Abuse Prevention (Cosap) two weeks ago.

Cosap Chief Dr. Alice Utlang would not give out the number but she, too, confirmed that members of both sexes tested positive.

Zafra had asked Cosap to conduct the surprise test.

He initially wanted the test conducted before the barangay hired them, but Utlang did not have the kits ready. He formally sat in office last Dec. 1.

Second chance

Zafra, though, intends to give the employees a second chance.

“I don’t want to condemn them or embarrass them, let’s find a way to intermediate,” Zafra told Sun.Star Cebu.

He scheduled a meeting with Utlang next week so they can craft a program to help the employees kick the habit.

Utlang agreed that the employees should not be kicked out immediately.

“They might have family problems. They might fall deeper (into the habit) if they no longer have jobs. So it should not be outright,” said Utlang.

Zafra said those who tested positive will undergo counseling and possible rehabilitation.

If they don’t respond, then the barangay will not renew their contract.

Zafra said his barangay renews contracts every three months.

“I’m saddened by the outcome but they are just victims of different reasons. It could be family, friends so we need to help them,” he said.

City Attorney Jerone Castillo sees no legal impediment in continuing to employ these employees.

Addressing the problem

Under the City Hall’s set-up, it files an administrative case against employees who test positive for illegal drugs. It usually doesn’t renew the contract of most of them.

Castillo said he will review the guidelines but he agreed with Zafra and Utlang that removal from service should not be immediate.

“Are we here to just condemn them? Or are we here to go deeper into the problem?” said Castillo, “There should be a policy on counseling and rehabilitation.”

Zafra also encouraged other barangays to have their employees tested.

He said he has received positive feedbacks from some barangays whose officials are willing to undergo drug testing, as well as their employees.

“This is something we should not be embarrassed about. This is something we should address and know how to address,” he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 25, 2014.

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