Are law enforcers defying SC ruling on mandatory testing of drug suspects?

WHEN some lawmakers and netizens questioned why Attorney General Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla’s son was not subjected to mandatory drug testing after his arrest for possession of high-quality marijuana, a spokesman for the Philippines’ Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said in an interview that it “isn’t essential ” will be for the charges he faces.



Derrick Carreon, the PDEA spokesman, added that 38-year-old Juanito Jose Diaz Remulla 3. “on the advice of his lawyer” refused to undergo a drug test. He said PDEA would not insist that Remulla undergo a drug test after his lawyer “intervened immediately”.

Carreon could have immediately dispelled allegations and suspicions that the Attorney General’s eldest son received special treatment if he had relied on a 2008 Supreme Court ruling that found Section 36(f) Article III of Republic Act 9165 or declared unconstitutional by the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2022.”

The deleted provision reads: “All persons charged before the public prosecutor’s office with a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for not less than six (6) years and one (1) day must submit to a mandatory drug test.”

The younger Remulla was charged with violating Section 11 of RA 9165 or possession of dangerous drugs, punishable by life imprisonment and a fine of between 500,000 and 10 million pesos.

Get the latest news

delivered to your inbox

Sign up for the Manila Times daily newsletter

By signing up with an email address, I confirm that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

He was arrested Oct. 11 at his Las Piñas City home after receiving a package from San Diego, California, containing 893.91 grams of Kush, or high-grade marijuana, with an estimated street value of 1.25 million pesos.

Why the PDEA spokesman did not invoke the Supreme Court ruling directly was troubling. All he said was that Remulla’s attorney cited a Supreme Court ruling that drug testing was not mandatory, but did not specify which ruling.

I asked an attorney who has handled a number of drug cases whether drug testing is actually not mandatory. “All drug offenders, drug test [is] mandatory,” I was told. “A positive test is presumption of possession and confirmation of drug use,” the attorney added.

When briefed on the Supreme Court’s 2008 ruling under GR 157870, the lawyer said, “But they (law enforcement) still do this,” meaning the mandatory drug testing of arrested suspects who face drug-related cases.

Then I asked, “Are suspects in the drug cases you handle subjected to involuntary drug testing?” The answer: “All.”

From the brief conversation, I concluded that the PDEA did not immediately invoke the 2008 Supreme Court ruling because they had resisted it. Remulla’s lawyer should not have intervened.

The ruling, written by then-Associate Judge Presbitero Velasco Jr., says, “The court finds no valid justification for mandatory drug testing for persons accused of a crime… The operational concepts in mandatory drug testing are ‘randomness’ and ‘unsuspected.’ ‘ In the case of a person charged with a criminal offense before the prosecutor’s office, a mandatory drug test can never be accidental or unsuspecting.”

The ruling adds: “The ideas of randomness and lack of suspicion are contrary to their defendants in a criminal complaint. They are not chosen at random, nor are they above suspicion.”

It goes on to say: “To impose mandatory drug testing on the defendant is a blatant attempt to use a medical test as a law enforcement tool contrary to the objectives of RA 9165. Drug testing in this case would violate an individual’s guaranteed right to privacy under Section 2, Art. III GG. Worse, the accused are virtually forced to incriminate themselves.”

The Supreme Court ruling “ordered permanent [concerned agencies, including PDEA and the PNP] from the implementation of §. 36(f) and (g) of RA 9165. Section 36(g), which refers to mandatory drug testing for “all candidates for public office, whether appointed or elected in national or local government”.

The same ruling, however, upheld as constitutional the requirement for mandatory but random drug testing of secondary and tertiary school students and officials and employees of public and private agencies as “justified” and “reasonable.”

It states: “In the case of students, the constitutional viability of mandatory, random and suspect-free drug testing arises primarily from students’ renunciation of their right to privacy upon admission to school and their voluntary surrender of their person to the parental authority of the school authorities assume. For private and public employees, the constitutional permissibility of mandatory, random, and suspect-free drug testing results from the adequacy of drug testing policies and requirements.”

If law enforcement is indeed still conducting mandatory drug testing on drug suspects, despite the 2008 Supreme Court ruling, what happens to those who have been or have been prosecuted based on the results of involuntary drug testing?

Shouldn’t the law enforcement agencies involved be held accountable?