Mandatory Drug Testing for Public Employees
by Atty. Karissa Tolentino

Legal Basis

Last August 17, 2016, I delivered my privilege speech where I encouraged my colleagues and the employees of City Hall to undergo a drug test. I believe that having drug-free work place raises the credibility and integrity of our local government offices. This would translate to higher trust ratings which ultimately will inspire better and more competent services from our beloved employees.

But the question is, in the event that the employees refuse to voluntarily subject themselves to drug testing, can they still be tested without violating their constitutional rights against unreasonable [bodily] search? The constitutional protection is rooted on Article III, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution where it provides that:

Sec. 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the person or things to be seized.

This means that without permission from the Court, no drug test can be done upon a person except when he voluntarily submits himself to testing. However, with the enactment of RA 9165, otherwise known as, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, mandatory but random drug testing of public and private employees is now allowed. Section 36 [d] of said law provides:

(d) Officers and employees of public and private offices. – Officers and employees of public and private offices, whether domestic or overseas, shall be subjected to undergo a random drug test as contained in the company’s work rules and regulations, which shall be borne by the employer, for purposes of reducing the risk in the workplace. Any officer or employee found positive for use of dangerous drugs shall be dealt with administratively which shall be a ground for suspension or termination, subject to the provisions of Article 282 of the Labor Code and pertinent provisions of the Civil Service Law

2 Isn’t Section 36 [d] of RA 9165 unconstitutional?

This question has been decided in the case of SOCIAL JUSTICE SOCIETY (SJS) v. Dangerous Drugs Board and PDEA1 where the Supreme Court ruled that:

“xxx To the Court, the need for drug testing to at least minimize illegal drug use is substantial enough to override the individual’s privacy interest under the premises. The Court can consider that the illegal drug menace cuts across gender, age group, and social- economic lines. xxx Taking into account the foregoing factors, i.e., the reduced expectation of privacy on the part of the employees, the compelling state concern likely to be met by the search, and the well-defined limits set forth in the law to properly guide authorities in the conduct of the random testing, we hold that the challenged drug test requirement is, under the limited context of the case, reasonable and, ergo, constitutional.

Like their counterparts in the private sector, government officials and employees also labor under reasonable supervision and restrictions imposed by the Civil Service law and other laws on public officers, all enacted to promote a high standard of ethics in the public service. And if RA 9165 passes the norm of reasonableness for private employees, the more reason that it should pass the test for civil servants, who, by constitutional command, are required to be accountable at all times to the people and to serve them with utmost responsibility and efficiency.” Emphasis added

Based on jurisprudence, government employees can be subjected to mandatory but random drug testing. The drug problem is now widespread in our country, and, with the recent news about our government’s war on drugs, it is in my humble opinion that it is high time that we, the government officials and employees of this City, set an example to our constituents and contribute to the national government’s efforts to curb the drug menace in our Country. We can start by subjecting ourselves to drug testing to increase the credibility and integrity of our local government.

(Footnotes) 1 G.R. No. 157870, November 3, 2008; This is a consolidated case decision.

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