Drug Testing in Philippine Schools: Historical Overview and Implications for Drug Policy

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With the stated aims of promoting “drug-free” campuses and “instilling in the minds of students” that drugs are harmful; drug testing in schools has been a feature of the Philippines’ punitive drug regime for two decades; gaining prominence during the Duterte administration's war on drugs (2016-2022). Drawing on key informant interviews and a desk review of news articles and official documents; this paper presents a historical overview of this policy as well as its impacts on students; educational institutions; and Philippine society. The paper finds that the group most affected by drug testing in schools are the students themselves; who are placed at risk of discrimination and alienation. Schools are also affected by the policy; as it requires expending their human and financial resources. More broadly; the policy perpetuates longstanding popular notions on drugs; children; and the overall idea that individuals carry the “burden of proof” to demonstrate their worthiness for societal inclusion. Drug testing in Philippine schools is ineffective and misguided in its objectives; but it has received widespread support because of its social and political efficacies.