The Commission on Human Rights supports in principle any anti-drug campaign undertaken by the Government, particularly as these measures will provide additional layers of protection for the Filipino child. However, the Commission reminds the Government that these measures should be fully compliant with international and Constitutional standards upholding, promoting and protecting the rights of the child.
On the issue of random drug testing, the Government is advised to internalize the spirit and principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which forms part of the law of the land and as such, the Government as a State Party to the Convention, must “undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention.” (Article 4)
The Convention is very clear in recognizing that a child as an individual is entitled to the protection of his or her human rights.
Article 16 of the Convention states that “no child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.”
The Commission fears that in the absence of guidelines formulated in a democratic, consultative manner, this random drug testing focused on the youth of this land especially in the hands of over-zealous law enforcement officers can potentially put the child’s human rights in danger of being violated.
The basic human rights of the child against self-incrimination; the right of the child to be protected in his or her person, effects and correspondence; and the right of the child against unlawful searches and seizures are immediately destabilized by the implementation of a random drug testing campaign. This random drug testing measure has the capacity to make the Filipino child insecure in his or her own person which is completely antithetical to the ideals and protective stance of the Convention which this Government is duty-bound to implement.
In a policy viewpoint, the unit of analysis in addressing the endemic drug problem should be focused on the institutional roots of the problem NOT on the potential and most vulnerable victim of the drug menace: the Filipino child.
The Commission reminds the Government that a more thoughtful, comprehensive, child-sensitive approach entails the Government to enter into a series of dialogues and consultations not only with the agencies that are part of the five pillars of justice but also must reach out to the community, particularly the sector involved, the children.
Child participation in the development and implementation of local and national policies is highly encouraged by the Commission. Let the children be part of the solution. The children’s voices must have the possibility and opportunity to influence public policy.
The Commission is hopeful that the Government continues to aspire to prioritize the issues of children especially in the context of the reprehensible danger brought on by the use, sale, production and distribution of illegal drugs in the country. The Commission encourages the Government to put more efforts in enhancing its education drive in schools and local communities against the drug menace.
Infuse more funding and resources to local communities engaged in locked in on promoting more child-friendly spaces (i.e. libraries, sports facilities) and child-friendly programs (i.e. youth in governance).
The Government must enhance avenues of assistance for the youth that have fallen into the cracks by giving funding and technical support to the rehabilitation and social welfare systems, particularly in the local communities. And the Commission urges that in all government programmes and exercises that deal with the children and our youth, that confidentiality on any circumstances pertaining to the individual child should not be violated.
The Commission is confident that the Government understands its solemn responsibility to the child that the child has every right to expect the full protection of the law against any interference or attack. Let us all work together in providing protection and affording opportunities to the children of this country. Finally, all government measures must be designed and guided with the best interests of the child in mind in order to promote and protect the right of the child to a life lived with peace, dignity and humanity.
Issued this 15th day of January 2009, Quezon City, Philippines.
For the Commission:
LEILA M. DE LIMA