The test was administered to 54 employees from San Marcelino, 398 employees from the main office, and 102 from the Lung Center of the Philippines, in compliance with the Civil Service (CSC) Memorandum Circular No. 13 s. 2017 issued on April 19, 2017 where incumbent public officials and employees of government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) shall be made to undergo a “mandatory, random, and suspicionless” drug testing as a condition for retention in service.
“Apart from the anti-illegal gambling campaign, PCSO is fully and strongly supporting the President’s all-out war on drugs,” said Balutan.
“This is not to ‘catch’ employees who are using drugs. The random testing is to promote safety by deterring regulated employees from misusing drugs and abusing alcohol,” he added.
Drug test procedures
The drug testing shall only be conducted by a government drug testing laboratory or by a drug testing laboratory duly authorized and accredited by the Department of Health.
“When you say mandatory, everyone can undergo drug test but as far as the choice of the date, time, and how frequent it is, there’s an element of surprise. It may be the selection of employees itself or the date and time. No one knows until the day itself. In this case, there’s a particular target for a particular schedule,” said Dr. Bernard M. Regalado, medical director and head of drug testing laboratory of Asia Pacific Medical & Diagnostics, Inc.
APMDI is a private accredited drug screening laboratory of the Department of Health, conducting drug testing program since 2000 for private companies, government agencies, GOCCs, including local and international schools in the Philippines.
Once the employee has been informed, he needs to fill up the Drug Testing Custody and Control Form for proper identification, declaring all possible medications he has taken in the last 30 days.
DOH is currently using the Integrated Drug Test Operations Management Information System (IDTOMIS), an integrated system that captures data for accrediting drug testing laboratories and rehabilitation centers, drug testing operations at different levels of implementation, verification of pending transactions, monitoring and evaluation of standards, systems and performance.
The specimen bottles must be properly labelled and taking of specimen samples for screening test must be done in an area where manipulation (e.g. adding of water) is not possible.
“The specimen collection must be done in actual and real time. It cannot be collected a day or a few hours before to prevent any form of tampering, switching, and adulteration. We also have authorized specimen collectors or custodians for both genders who will make sure that the specimens are valid and secured,” said Regalado.
Specimen samples found positive in the screening test shall be submitted for confirmatory testing within the same day.
The head of office/agency or his/her designated person shall notify the official or employee of the positive result from the confirmatory test, and the latter has 15 days from receipt of notice to challenge the result.
Failure to file a challenge within the prescribed period shall make the positive drug test result from the confirmatory test final. A positive result from the challenge test is likewise deemed final.
Drug use as ‘medical issue’
Regalado clarified based on CSC guideline, if a government official or employee is confirmed positive, it shall be treated as medical issue or medical concern with utmost confidentiality.
“We don’t immediately judge the person based on one-time confirmed positive that he’s already drug dependent. This is only a medical issue or concern. This is not for outright termination. This is not even a criminal liability because he wasn’t diagnosed medically,” he explained.
Employee concerned shall be notified and shall undergo a Drug Dependency Examination to be conducted by the DOH or by any of its accredited medical practitioners to determine whether he/she falls under the category of experimenter, occasional user, or chronic user/drug dependent.
As mandated by law, a drug dependent is declared unfit to work and has to undergo rehabilitation for up to six months (minimum) with an 18-month post rehab care.
He will be given a chance to go back to work after rehab but he needs to comply with the terms and conditions and prove that he is not drug dependent and drug-free.
Regalado, however, clarified that the employee must voluntarily submit himself for rehab. He cannot be forced to undergo rehab because it is against his rights, however, a case may be filed against him if he doesn’t comply with the rehab program, either use of dangerous drugs or in possession.
Rehabilitation programs usually entail a cost and companies are encouraged to create rehabilitation programs to help their employees, although there are cheaper programs being offered by the government.
Employees, however, have the right to choose their own doctor, clinics or facilities to undergo rehab and treatment. It should be treated as a medical concern or issue that needs coverage, but it should be in placed within the company policy on health/medical benefits.
“What if the company budget for health benefits is limited? Employee has to shoulder part of it because it’s his choice and decision to use ‘drugs’. There’s a responsibility on the part of the employees. Companies cannot shoulder everything,” said Regalado.
Some drugs are classified as dangerous even they have medical use because they have potential for misuse, overdose, abuse, dependence, or addiction. They need special prescription or S2 License.
“Any unlawful or unnecessary prescription or dispensation of drugs with medical use but classified as dangerous drugs can cause imprisonment, license revocation, or closure of pharmacy,” said Regalado.
“I hope the general public will also understand the significance of medications taken every time someone undergoes collection of specimen for drug testing,” he added.
Certain drugs stay for a short period time in our body – a few hours or days. But there are drugs that have tendency to stay longer in our body for a month or several months.
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