A House f Representatives’ leader has called on Congress to reinstate the mandatory drug testing requirement in securing a driver’s license, citing the series of deadly road accidents involving drivers who are under the influence of illegal drugs.
House Transportation Committee chairman and Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento expressed dismay that this requirement which was previously required by the Land Transportation Office for driver’s license applicants had been removed.
Meanwhile, a female legislator has filed a bill mandating public transport vehicles to install dashboard camera, closed circuit television, and global positioning system as standard safety equipment before they are allowed to service the riding public.
“There are far too many incidents of crimes in our public utility vehicles. Almost every day, we hear of various cases of theft and violent robberies in jeepneys, buses and taxis. Other incidents involve kidnapping, rape and murder of innocent riders, sexual harassment and sexual assault, among others,” Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera said.
Herrera filed House Bill 3341 that requires public utility vehicles and transport network vehicle services, school transport services, and government service vehicles to install dash cams, CCTV and GPS.
“Our vision is for our public transportation system to be safe and reliable for all Filipinos. Dashboard cameras, CCTV and GPS are now widely available and are useful in documenting events, incidents or accidents that occur on roads, streets and highways,” Herrera, deputy majority leader, said.
“These technological advancements that we are experiencing should be utilized for the security and safety of the Filipino people,” she added.
With the rising number of deaths and injuries caused by reckless drivers who are under the influence of illegal drugs, Sarmiento said that Congress should now amend Republic Act 10586 or the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act to reinstate drug testing for driver’s license applicants.
“Now is the time to bring back the mandatory drug testing as a requirement for obtaining a driver’s license, especially for our public utility drivers. If we cannot implement this for everyone, the requirements should be at least more stringent to those who earn their living from the transportation sector,” Sarmiento said in a privilege speech Monday.
Just last week, a Grade 8 student in Makati was killed while seven others were seriously injured when they were run over by a speeding jeepney driven by a self-confessed drug user.
Only a day after the incident, an 18-wheeler truck driven by a shabu user plowed through several vehicles before ramming into several roadside establishments killing a 17-old woman and her three-month old baby.
Sarmiento said that the two incidents should serve as a grim reminder on the danger posed by drivers who are drug users.
He noted that in 2017 alone, 31 people dies every day due to road accidents and many of these involve drivers who are either drunk or are under the influence of drugs or both.
“Just last week, an incident occurred in Makati City which resulted in the death of a 14-year old student and the injuries of 7 others. These students were on their way home to their families after class. While crossing the pedestrian lane, a jeepney ran over them. The reckless driver tested positive for methamphetamine use. He has confessed that he was using illegal drugs. Yet, he was still able to drive a public utility vehicle,” Sarmiento said.
“The implications of the use of illegal drugs by our PUV drivers is a no laughing matter. We are entrusting this person with the lives of hundreds of passengers, pedestrians, and other road users per day. For each time that a person drives their vehicle while high on drugs, the risks that the ordinary citizens are being subjected to are incalculable,” he added.
Sarmiento lamented that while the government has become too lenient in setting the standards in issuing driver’s license, it has also increased its validity from three years to five to ten years.
“We have increased the duration of the validity of the driver’s license but we have not considered that we have to be stricter with giving these out, especially to public utility drivers who are responsible for the lives of their passengers,” he said.
Sarmiento noted that the Court of Appeals recently ruled that the mandatory drug testing for the application and the renewal of driver’s license is no longer required as provided under Section 36 (a) of RA 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 following the enactment of RA10586.
Under RA 9165, drug test is only required when a driver is accosted by law enforcement officers for suspicion that they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Furthermore, RA 10586 now only requires every applicant for a motor vehicle driver’s license to “complete a course of instruction that provides information on safe driving including, but not limited to, the effects of the consumption of alcoholic beverages on the ability of a person to operate a motor vehicle, the hazards of driving under the influence of alcohol, dangerous drugs and/or other similar substances.”
Sarmiento said that that RA 10586 should be amended or repealed to reinstate mandatory drug testing for driver’s license applicants as he noted that fears of corruption can now be addressed through existing technological innovations.
“Right now, we have better access to technological innovations. Our government offices are starting to automate the basic services being offered to the public. Now, we can accredit laboratories and make sure that the results are being sent directly to the LTO, with less human intervention,” he said.