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Nurses’ oath-taking stopped

Nurses’ oath-taking stopped
By Jose Rodel Clapano
The Philippine Star 08/19/2006

The Court of Appeals (CA) stopped yesterday the scheduled oath-taking of new nurses who passed the licensure examination conducted last June, which was tainted by the alleged leakage of exam questions.

In a resolution penned by Associate Justice Vicente Veloso, the appellate court’s special third division issued a 60-day temporary restraining order on the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and the Board of Nursing and barred the oath-taking, which is scheduled on Tuesday.

The scandal resulted in the resignation last Thursday of Philippine Nurses Association president George Cordero following allegations that he leaked the exam questions mostly to examinees from two review centers, one of which he owns, and a school that he also runs

. PRC Chairman Leonor Rosero issued a memorandum last Thursday saying examinees who passed the licensure test may take their oath as nurses on Tuesday despite the scandal, only to suspend the oath-taking yesterday because of the court order.

PRC Commissioner Avelina de la Rea said the oath-taking was valid from their viewpoint. "But we still don’t know the legal implications of the wordings in the temporary restraining order," she said.

The court order stemmed from a petition filed by faculty members of the University of Sto. Tomas and two nursing associations, the League of Concerned Nurses and the Binuklod na Samahan ng mga Student Nurse.

They said the PRC and the nursing board should protect the integrity and competence of the profession "by ensuring that only those who have qualified in appropriate examinations are allowed into the profession." "

Consequently, petitioners are compelled to file this petition for prohibition with application for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, to prevent such issue of great importance to public health and safety and to the future of nurses seeking work overseas from becoming moot and academic. Petitioners have no appeal or any other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law against Resolution 31 (of the nursing board) and its implementation," the petitioners said.

UST faculty members protested the decision of the PRC and the board to include the scores in two leaked portions of the examinations in computing the examinees’ overall scores "although the resolution invalidated portions of the nursing examinations given on June 11-12, 2006 due to the leakage."

The petitioners met with the officials of the board and the PRC on July 21 to lodge their objections.

"Such objections amounted to a motion for reconsideration of respondent board’s resolution 31. But respondent board and the PRC declined to act on the objections and scheduled for Aug. 22, 2006 the oath-taking of those who supposedly passed the examinations under the scheme mentioned above for recomputing scores in the annulled test," they said in their petition to the court.

They asked the PRC to suspend the oathtaking until the anomaly was straightened out but to no avail.

"Unfortunately, leakages in Tests III as well as in Test V plagued the examinations. Many review centers acquired copies of questions asked in these tests a few days before the scheduled examination and shared these leaked questions with their reviewees. The stench of this anomaly was so massive that nursing associations and long-established schools of nursing from Tuguegarao to Zambaonga protested the careless handling of the examinations," they stated in their petition.

They emphasized that Resolution 31 had acknowledged that "20 test items out of 100 in Test III were very similar in content or substance with the leaked materials and 90 items out of 100 in Test V were identical in substance, forms, situations and choices with the leaked materials."

They said the PRC and the board should have ordered new examinations.

"Petitioners and their colleagues in academe as well as various nursing associations in the country were outraged by respondent board and PRC’s irrational action that did not take into account the public interest in maintaining and protecting the integrity and competence of the Philippine nursing profession by ensuring that only those who have qualified in appropriate examinations are allowed into the profession," they said.

De la Rea could not immediately say how the court restraining order will affect the results of the scandal-tainted examinations. "We’re going to consult the Solicitor General," she said.

The CA gave the PRC and the nursing board 10 days to submit their comments on the petition. The petitioners have five days to submit their reply on the comments. The hearing on the petition is set for Sept. 24.

Settling scores

Settling scoresAnother PRC commissioner, Renato Valdecantos, said it is unlikely that those who benefited from the leaked exam questions would be prosecuted because it would be almost impossible to identify them.

Valdecantos said those who passed did not come from one school or review center unlike similar cheating scandals in the past.

"Unfortunately, the traditional means of detecting those who cheated failed because there was no clustering of high scores," he said. "Nationwide, there are other examinees who got 88 (in one of the leaked tests) and the same kind of grade in other subjects."

Valdecantos said getting high scores did not necessarily indicate cheating. It was also possible that those who saw the leaked test questions didn’t take them seriously.

"Being a lawyer, we have a legal saying that it is better to acquit 100 criminals than convict one innocent person," he said. Of the 42,000 nursing graduates who took the examinations, about 42 percent or over 17,800 examinees passed.

De la Rea added the PRC has no records of who studied in review centers, making identification even more difficult.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who initiated a Senate inquiry into the leakage, questioned Rosero’s decision to push through with the oathtaking.

"Chairwoman Rosero should resign. PRC chairwoman Rosero’s memo directing that the various regional oath-takings be held starting Aug. 17 is highly irresponsible, considering that the Senate Investigation as well as the NBI investigation, which Rosero herself requested, are still ongoing," Gordon said.

Why are they acting with such indecent, inexplicable and unjustifiable haste? This could only mean a cover-up," he suspected.

Gordon cited Rosero’s July 13 letter requesting the National Bureau of Investigation for assistance.

"Our own investigation has established that there was such a leakage and that it was traced to the test questions manuscripts of two members of the Board of Nursing. Administrative charges for neglect of duty will be filed against these two Board members. Unfortunately, limited as we are in resources and expertise, we are unable to pursue our investigation to find out the exact extent of the irregularity and the identities of the culprits," Gordon quoted part of the letter.

He pointed out that the PRC is tasked by the law to maintain a high standard of admission to the practice of all professions, and safeguard the integrity of all licensure examinations.

"Under the circumstances, it is clear that the PRC is not ensuring and safeguarding the integrity of the licensure examination and that it has miserably failed to comply with its mandate," Gordon said.

"Senate investigations are ongoing and they have managed to ferret out new and valuable information on the culprits as well as the extent of the leakage. Why can’t the PRC wait until both the Senate inquiry and the NBI investigation into the matter are concluded and the exact extent of this debacle is uncovered?" Gordon said.

The NBI has summoned one dean, Carmelita Divinagracia, of Far Eastern University’s college of nursing*, for questioning. She was among 22 deans who reportedly attended an "enhancement review class" at an SM Manila theater where Cordero allegedly gave the questions in advance to examinees. The questions were flashed on the movie screen with a Powerpoint presentation.

An examinee had told a PRC panel that investigated the scandal that Cordero had told nursing graduates of the Philippine College of Health and Science and examinees studying at the Institute for Review and Special Studies, both of which are owned by him, to attend the so-called "enhancement review class."


The STAR tried but failed to get Divinagracia’s comment. The case officer, Martini Cruz, said the others will be questioned later as the investigation goes along.

Cordero said he resigned from his post as president of the Philippine Nurses Association to "preserve the integrity of the PNA."

Cordero was tight-lipped about his alleged involvement. "I was told by my lawyer not to talk about this for the meantime. No comment," he told an interview last Thursday.

But Cordero pointed out that his son flunked the exam, indicating that he didn’t leak the test questions. — With Sheila Crisostomo, Marvin Sy, Christina Mendez, Evelyn Macairan

http://www.philstar.com/philstar/News200608190401.htm

_____________________________________________

Jeddah's Comment:

I am a graduate of Far Easter Univeristy, Institute of Nursing (manila) and we dont have any Dean Carmelita Divinagracia. Our dean at the time of the June 11 and 12 2006 NLE is retired Dean Norma Dumadag and Associate Dean Glenda Arquiza. Right now we have a new dean but she was just appointed months after the exam was finished, and she isnt Dean Carmelita Divinagracia.

yan na! CREATING A MESS OUT OF THE MESS! nagkakalintik lintik na! BE VERY VIGILANT honest board passers!

thanks to jeddah's comment...hope everyone read this comment and article...dito natin malalaman how unaccurate media sometimes is and how bias they are...they are the ones making this issue worse and more worse...

so hindi yan dean ng FEU, DEAN NG UERM? eh d ba UERM kasama rin sa RETAKE.. ang gulo ha.

I have met Divinagracia personally and she is the Dean of UERM and Pres of the ADPCN.

I am SURE of that becoz we did interviewd her bcoz it part of our requirement last yr.

COnstant Vigilance

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