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PRC stands pat: No nursing exam retake

PRC stands pat: No nursing exam retake
Sheila Crisostomo
The Philippine Star 08/23/2006

Amid mounting criticism, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) is standing pat on its position not to order new nursing licensure examinations even though the last one in June was allegedly marred by the leakage of test questions.

PRC Chairman Leonor Rosero maintained yesterday it was no longer necessary to hold new tests because the PRC did not include scores from the two scandal-tainted portions of the five-part examinations in computing the examinees’ overall scores.

Yesterday, hundreds of examinees who passed the June exams trooped to the PRC’s main office in Sampaloc, Manila demanding that they be allowed to take their oaths as new nurses. They were scheduled to take their oaths yesterday.

But the PRC turned them down because of a Court of Appeals restraining order issued last Friday, calling for a 60-day stay until the issue is resolved.

The court has scheduled a hearing on a petition filed by faculty members of the University of Sto. Tomas and two nursing groups demanding that new tests be held to ensure the integrity of the examinations and the profession.

Rosero and other PRC officials met with the examinees, some of whom brought along their parents, at the PRC’s auditorium.

"The PRC doesn’t want a retake," Rosero said to cheers, applause and chants of "no retake" from the crowd.

But Rosero explained that the court restraining order must be respected. "We have to wait. But we already consulted the Solicitor General and we explained our position. We will seek the dismissal of the petition," she said.

Commissioner Avelina de la Rea gave assurances that the PRC had implemented appropriate measures in cleansing the results of the licensure tests.

"We’ve taken away the leakage. The grades are pure and free of leakage. The 17,821 passers possess the general competency required at the entry level of nursing practice," she explained.

Commissioner Renato Valdecantos said he is confident that the CA would lift the restraining order and junk the petition when the PRC submits its reply.

Valdecantos said the PRC response would revolve around several arguments. One is that the petitioners should have not gone directly to the CA.

He said there was no "antecedent case" before the PRC or regional trial court where the petitioners’ demands were heard and denied that would have made it necessary for them to make an appeal before the CA.

Valdecantos added that the petitioners should have also made those who passed the exams a party to their complaint because they stood to benefit.

"They did not include the passers," he said. "Only we in the PRC and the Board of Nursing. Why didn’t they include them? Because there were many of them and they got scared?"

He said the PRC had exercised its legal discretion to simply exclude scores from the tainted-tests in computing the examinees’ overall scores.

"We have the interest of the majority in mind. Why punish the innocent? I think the ball now is with the court," Valdecantos said.

But Valdecantos acknowledged that President Arroyo could order the PRC to resume the oath taking since the commission is under the Office of the President’s supervision.

So far, Malacañang has refused to intervene, except that those who were involved in leaking the questions in advance to examinees would be "punished to the full extent of the law."

"This should not be a cause for any stigma on our nurses or other professionals who remain to be among the best in the world," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye told a Malacañang press briefing. "Honest and professional integrity are eminent traits of the Filipino worker, and this is known the world over."

In Iloilo, about 3,000 new nurses took their oath last Sunday because the PRC office in Manila got a copy of the CA restraining order only yesterday morning.

Some of those who passed the examinations are considering filing their own petition before the CA to intervene in the dispute and express their sentiment.

"We have consulted our lawyer. We’ll file an intervention. We can never agree to a retake," according to their representative Renato Aquino.

Examinees who trooped to the PRC yesterday demanded an explanation, forcing officials to meet with them in a packed auditorium.

Many angrily took to the stage to vent their disappointment and anger over the restraining order and calls for new examinations.

One examinee nearly cried when she recalled how her parents took out loans so that she could review for the examinations.

Another examinee narrated that her daughter helped her review. "She read questions for me to answer. I reviewed hard without any cheating, and then now I also have to suffer. That’s unfair!"

A mother of an examinee demanded that only the guilty ones be identified and prosecuted. If it could not be done, she said the innocent should be spared from taking new exams.

Aquino said they do not intend to file a class suit because of the paperwork.

"At least 12 of us will file the intervention with the CA. As much as possible, we want this 12 to be representatives of 12 schools," he added. — With Aurea Calica, Jose Rodel Clapano, Delon Porcalla


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