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GMA rejects retake of nursing exams

GMA rejects retake of nursing exams
By Aurea Calica
The Philippine Star 08/29/2006

President Arroyo rejected yesterday recommendations for those who took last June’s nursing licensure examinations to retake them in the wake of the alleged leakage of test questions.

The President also turned down calls for the replacement of the head of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).

"Those who did not commit any wrongdoing will not be punished," she said over Radio Mindanao Network.

Mrs. Arroyo said she would not want to punish the innocent in this case since it would be unfair, especially to PRC Chairman Leonor Tripon-Rosero.

"If we are going to look at the record of the (PRC) chairperson, this is the only one among the many board exams that she handled that had a problem," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo vowed to institute reforms at the PRC, beginning with the replacement of the nursing board of examiners, but ruled out any major revamp at the PRC, saying only the guilty must be punished.

She said she personally talked to Rosero last Sunday and gave her instructions to bring those responsible for the leakage to justice.

The President said she asked Rosero to reorganize the nursing board as the first step in addressing the problem and instituting reforms.

Most of those who had taken and passed the nursing board exams are clamoring against a retake.

"I am not planning to just replace the nursing board of examiners but to place PRC under the Department of Labor (and Employment or DOLE) so we can discuss issues such as this at the Cabinet," she said.

Aside from putting the PRC under DOLE supervision, Mrs. Arroyo said she also discussed with Commission on Higher Education Chairman Carlito Puno the matter of having nursing review centers regulated by CHED.

"I will issue an executive order so the review centers will be placed under CHED so it would be regulated," she said.

As for the aspiring nurses who passed the leakage-tainted exams, they expressed elation over Mrs. Arroyo’s "no retake" stand.

"We, the more than 17,000 passers and our families and friends, are very happy to know that the President is with us. The support for us is growing and this is really boosting our morale," said Renato Aquino, head of the Alliance of New Nurses which was formed by the passers recently.

Aquino noted that through presidential adviser Arthur Yap, the passers sent a letter to Mrs. Arroyo last Saturday, asking her to look into their plight.

"Maybe, she read the letter during the weekend. This is a vindication for a majority of us who have no part in the leakage. We hope that those responsible will be identified and prosecuted," Aquino told The STAR.

The PRC, which has been backing the new nurses’ "no retake" call, are also "very happy. She’s clear on the real issue which is that we should not punish the innocent," PRC commissioner Avelina de la Rea said.

Rosero said the PRC has filed administrative charges against nursing board examiners Anesia Dionisio and Virginia Madeja, from whose manuscripts the leaked questions came from.

In an interview, she said the criminal liability of these two officials would be determined by the NBI.

Rosero maintained that PRC welcomes any reforms that would be instituted in the commission in the aftermath of the leakage.

She added the commission has actually been tightening up its internal security by coming up with new software for its databank of questionnaires used in licensure examinations.

The new system will require not only passwords but also the "biometrics" of the examiners to secure the questionnaires they prepare.

"The leakage did not come from the PRC itself, it’s not from our system. I think it’s the personal integrity (of the examiners) that should be questioned," Rosero said.

Meanwhile, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Nestor Mantaring said yesterday they will file initial charges against those responsible for the nursing board examination leakage before the end of the week.

"I am giving them (until) the end of the month to finish the investigation," he said.

He said he was regularly updated by regional director Elfren Meneses Jr. of the NBI’s Anti-Fraud and Computer Crimes Division (AFCCD) on the progress of the investigation.

Mantaring said the AFCCD encountered a slight delay in their investigation because not all the witnesses and resource persons were immediately available for questioning.

"Not all of them cooperated immediately, some of them wanted to be accompanied by their lawyer so they asked for a postponement," he said.

Mantaring said while this would delay the investigation, "we have to observe the due process. But then, we cannot wait for them forever and we have to terminate the investigation one way or another."

Many fear that the image of Filipino nurses abroad suffered a dent because of the incident. The Philippines is reportedly the foremost exporter of nurses to the rest of the world. — With Evelyn Macairan and Sheila Crisostomo

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