THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) conducted on Thursday, May 16, a surprise drug test among truck drivers in key container ports nationwide.
PDEA Director Aaron Aquino said the surprise inspection was part of the agency’s “Oplan Harabas,” a holistic approach in reducing the demand for illegal drugs, promoting drug-free workplaces, harm-reduction and reformation.
“We are also doing this to keep track of long haul drivers under the influence of illegal drugs,” he said.
“PDEA finds it necessary to subject cargo truck drivers to drug screening because they operate heavy duty vehicles and are engaged in long distance travels. There is a prevailing practice of drug use among the driving population to stay awake for long trips,” he added.
Aquino said drivers who will refuse to undergo the mandatory drug test will be reported to the Land Transportation Office.
He said those who will be tested positive for drug use will have their driver’s license cancelled and confiscated and will have to undergo mandatory intervention and rehabilitation process before being able to reclaim their licenses.
Aside from drug testing, the PDEA also distributed drug preventive information, education and communication (IEC) materials to container truck drivers and tricycle drivers to make them more aware of the ill effects of illegal drugs.
According to Aquino, personnel of PDEA’s Preventive Education and Community Involvement Service (Pecis) were also present to perform on-site counseling, and help facilitate the rehabilitative treatment of drivers found positive for using illegal drugs, in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH) and local government units (LGUs).
“Oplan Harabas will be done on a monthly basis to keep unsafe drivers off our roads all the time,” Aquino said.
During the operation, the PDEA also deployed K9 units for the possible detection of illegal drugs concealed in trucks and containers being driven by the drivers subjected to testing.
On April 15, the PDEA conducted the “Oplan Huli Week” where bus driver were subjected to surprise drug test.
It was implemented to help prevent road accidents caused by drugged drivers, thus made the roads safer during the Lenten season’s travel rush.
A total of 55 bus and van drivers, and conductors tested positive for illegal drug use out of 7,910 who underwent the drug testing in 89 major public transportation terminals nationwide.
The conduct of the operation made history as the agency’s first ever operation plan conducted with the largest number in terms of public transportation drivers and sites screened for illegal drugs.
On October 30, as part of security preparation for the All Soul’s and All Saint’s Days, the PDEA also implemented “Oplan Undaspot” to ensure the safety of travelers during the two-day celebration.
A total of 1,691 provincial bus drivers and conductors underwent the drug test in passenger terminals nationwide. Fifteen drivers were found positive as a result of the operations.
“The successful implementation of the three Oplans resulted in the detection of a total of 120 public transport drivers and conductors using dangerous drugs nationwide. Reformative care will be provided to them to become upright drivers so as not to compromise the safety of the riding public,” Aquino said.
“In the pursuit of a drug-free transport system nationwide, these are PDEA’s humble contributions in keeping our traveling kababayans comfortable and reach their destination safe and sound,” he added.
The three oplans were implemented in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act 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."
Drivers who are under the influence of illegal drugs have been blamed for the increasing number of road traffic accidents.
Based on PDEA’s data monitoring from 2013 to 2019, 11,609 drivers, bus conductors, and dispatchers were arrested for violation of Republic Act 9165, or The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
From January 2018 to January 2019, 3,654 drivers were arrested in violation of the anti-drug law. 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. (SunStar Philippines)