“Na-prevent natin itong mga nag-positive from being a risk to their fellow motorists,” Dr. Louie Miranda of the LTO Central Office told GMA News Online by phone Tuesday.
The LTO has expressed reservations over Republic Act 10586 or the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013, which scraps mandatory drug testing from the list of requirements needed in applying for a driver’s license.
Citing latest data, Miranda said the 6,670 rejected applicants were placed under alarm, meaning they were barred from driving and can apply again only after six months.
Although the number represents only a small percentage of those who applied for a driver’s license, it still shows that mandatory drug test is effective in preventing drug users from becoming licensed drivers, Miranda said.
“Maliit siya pero ang punto is nakapag-prevent tayo ng more than 6,000 na applicants from getting their license or from renewing it,” he said.
For the previous year, the LTO issued more than 4.5 million driving licenses. Figures for the current year are not yet available.
Sen. Vicente Sotto III, principal author of RA 10586, said the provision in the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 that requires the LTO to conduct mandatory drug testing for license applicants has been revoked by the new law.
He said the Repealing Clause in RA 10586 “specifically stated that the clause on mandatory drug testing was among those deemed inconsistent with the new law.”
LTO chief Virginia Torres, however, maintained that the agency will continue requiring mandatory drug tests for applicants until the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for RA 10586 has been promulgated and implemented.
According to a press release posted by the Philippine Information Agency, the IRR will be crafted by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Department of Health (DOH), the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM), the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the next three months following President Benigno Aquino III’s signing of the law last May 27.
Under RA 10586, drug testing will only be required for drivers suspected of driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. According to the law, some indications of drunk or drugged driving include overspeeding, weaving, lane straddling, sudden stops, swerving, poor coordination or the evident smell of alcohol in a person’s breath.
Miranda, however, said law enforcers might have difficulty detecting a driver who is using drugs due to lack of training.
“As of now, law enforcers are still not trained to spot drugged drivers. Mas madali ma-detect ‘yung lasing. But for drugged drivers, hindi pa alam ng mga law enforcers kung paano sila made-detect aside from flagging them down to take a breath analyzer test,” he said.
Gus Lagman, head of the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP), also favors mandatory drug testing for those applying for a driver’s license.
“The drug test is preventive. At least you’re sure that a person is drug-free when he gets his license or when he renews it once every three years,” he said in a separate phone interview.
Lagman, however, is confident that the new law will help minimize the number of road accidents in the country whether or not it revokes the mandatory drug testing.
“Malaking bagay ‘yung law para ma-promote ang road safety dahil lumaki ‘yung penalties for drunk and drugged driving,” he said.
Under the new law, drivers who are found to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol face stiff penalties ranging from three months in prison and a fine of P20,000 to the perpetual revocation of the driver’s license and a P500,000 fine.
The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has recorded 26,161 road accidents from January to May 2013. Of the number, 123 were fatal while 20,772 had resulted in damage to property.
During the Senate deliberations for RA 10586 in January 2013, Senator Gregorio Honasan II cited data from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) showing that three percent of the 86,602 vehicular accidents recorded last year were drug or alcohol-related while 55 percent were reportedly due to driver’s error. — KBK, GMA News