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Angara slams conflict of interest between PRC, nurses’ group

Angara slams conflict of interest between PRC, nurses’ group
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star 08/21/2006

Sen. Edgardo Angara slammed yesterday the apparent conflict of interest between the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA), which may have contributed to the alleged leakage in the recent nursing licensure examination.

He said the conflict of interest arose from the fact that "the guardian is chosen by the guarded."

"The root cause of the scandal engulfing the recent nursing licensure examinations lies in the fact that the members of the current exam board for nurses were hand-picked by the president of the (PNA), who happens to be the owner of both a nursing school and a review center from where the leak allegedly came," Angara said.

He explained that under the nursing law, the chairman and members of the board of examiners are nominated solely by the PNA, "a regulatory devise intended to be a self-policing, peer-regulating mechanism that has gone askew."

"There is a Latin phrase which aptly describes it: Quis custodiet ipsos custodies? meaning, ‘Who will guard the guardians?’" Angara said.

In the Bar exams, Angara noted that it is the Supreme Court that picks the examiner.

"The Bar itself does not appoint or nominate the examiners. This arm’s length relationship develops an independence of mind between the two, which then ensures the credibility and integrity of the bar examination," he said.

About 42,000 nursing graduates took the last board exam in 11 testing centers around the country, with a passing rate of 42 percent or about 17,000 successful examinees.

"This issue confronting the profession hits close to home as both my parents were nurses. I have high respect for the profession, and I want it to maintain its integrity," Angara said.

Angara authored the original Nurses Law, as well as co-authored the amendment in 1992, which seeks to protect and improve the profession by promoting a more relevant nursing education, better working conditions, wider career prospects and a dignified existence for Filipino nurses.

The Philippines currently holds the distinction of being the leading provider of nurses to the world, Angara noted.

"We cannot afford to stain the well-deserved good reputation of Filipino nurses and risk their employment chances," he said.

Angara urged all officials concerned over the issue to ensure that the country "produce(s) excellent nurses not only to meet foreign demand but more critically, for the health care needs of the country."

Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Gordon also questioned the PRC’s capability to protect the integrity of the nursing exams.

He noted the commission’s inefficiency when it invalidated the two portions of the exams that were allegedly leaked through Board Resolution 31, allowed some of the passers of the nursing exams to take their oaths despite the unresolved allegations of cheating surrounding this year’s exam, and failed to assiduously investigate and prosecute the guilty parties.

"The PRC is supposed to protect the honesty, credibility, and integrity of all licensure exams but it seems to have failed in this case, causing the concerned members of the nursing profession to seek redress from the court," Gordon said.

The Court of Appeals has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) last Friday to stop the enforcement of Board Resolution 31 and the oath-taking ceremonies for all new nurses.

"Instead of getting to the bottom of the allegations of cheating in the nursing exams which taint or impugn its integrity and the authenticity of its results, the PRC, in its rashness and impatience in making such decisions, appears to be covering up this controversy instead of punishing the guilty parties involved and assuring the nursing profession, as well as the general public, of the integrity of the exams," Gordon said.

He pointed out that under Republic Act 8981 or "the PRC Modernization Act of 2000, the PRC is mandated to ensure and safeguard the integrity of all licensure exams."

According to Gordon, the PRC should exert every effort to determine the areas where cheating occurred and if only tests three and five were exclusively affected, then perhaps nursing aspirants should retake these tests for the protection of the nursing profession.

He added that the law has also vested the PRC with the power to investigate the commission of irregularities in the licensure exams.

The guilty parties can have their certificates of registration, professional licenses or identification cards revoked or suspended, and be suspended or removed from office.

They can also be jailed from six to 12 years, pay a fine from P50,000 to P100,000, or both for making licensure exam questions known prior to the conduct of the examination.

Gordon was also disappointed with what he said was the PRC’s irresponsible handling of this controversy by readily allowing some of the passers to take their oaths without prior due diligence and closure in the investigation of the alleged cheating.

Last weekend, various groups strongly urged the PRC and the Board of Nursing to conduct new licensure exams in the wake of allegations that previous exams, held last June, had been marred by cheating.

They particularly want a retake of two parts of the test that were allegedly leaked to examinees. About 20 percent of test three and 90 percent of test five were reportedly leaked to examinees prior to the examination held last June 11 and 12. Each of the five-part test had 100 questions.

Fely Marilyn Lorenzo, executive director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Health and Policy and Development (IHPD), said the results of tests three and five of the exams must be nullified.

"We’ll not be able to come out with a really meaningful solution if the examinees will not retake test three and test five. We cannot come half-clean," she said.

A similar stance was taken by the Association of Deans of Philippine Colleges of Nursing, concerned students and nurses’ organizations, among other groups.

Lorenzo was the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education-Technical Committee on Nursing Education, whose officials resigned en masse last month because of the failure of the commission to act on their recommendations to reform the nursing profession.


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