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NBI official says 2 PRC examiners face raps for nursing exam leak

NBI official says 2 PRC examiners face raps for nursing exam leak
By Evelyn Macairan
The Philippine Star 09/01/2006

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said yesterday criminal charges might be filed against two examiners of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) for their alleged involvement in the nursing exam leakage last June.

Regional Director Elfren Meneses Jr., chief of the NBI-Anti-Fraud and Computer Crimes Division (AFCCD), said they have recommended the criminal prosecution of PRC examiners Virginia Madeja and Anesia Dionisio.

Madeja and Dionisio were in charge of preparing the questionnaires for tests 3 and 5, respectively, of the 2006 nursing board exam. The two tests were reportedly leaked to the examinees.

Both were earlier slapped with administrative charges by the PRC fact-finding committee for "alleged neglect of duty that gave rise to the leakage" during the June 11 and 12 nursing licensure examination.

Meneses said the two examiners’ lawyers asked for a one-week extension, or until yesterday, to submit their counter-affidavits but failed to do so.

He clarified that what they have prepared is only the initial report and that at the conclusion of their investigation they might file charges against other people.

"No one is off the hook yet. There are others who might be charged depending on the evidence gathered," he stressed.

The NBI will submit its findings to their legal division for confirmation. Once affirmed, the bureau might file charges of violating Section 15 of Republic Act No. 8981 or the law modernizing the PRC, before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

If convicted, the respondents may face imprisonment of six to 12 years.

Malacañang said the PRC must be able to find a way to punish the passers in the nursing board examination who might have benefited from the leakage even as the agency recommended administrative sanctions against two of the examiners.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye yesterday said President Arroyo’s position was that those who were guilty should be penalized, while the innocent must be protected.

"So how do you interpret that? Those who did not commit a mistake, are you supposed to subject them to a retake? But in the areas where it will be proven that cheating really occurred, a retake may be possible," he said.

"The principle is do not punish the innocent but try to identify the guilty and impose the appropriate sanctions," Bunye said.

So far, the PRC is insisting that there should be no retake, not even a selective one, of the examinations.

"Violation consists of negligence," Bunye said.

Meneses, meanwhile, said the NBI should not be "pressured" in its investigation of the exam leakage.

"It is only now, with the ongoing investigation in the Senate, that other witnesses are coming out. In the criminal investigation, we need to have their statements to strengthen the evidence at hand," the NBI official said.

"These continuing probes resulted in the discovery of other angles that could shed light to the controversy," he said. "The NBI would also want to uncover how the leakage started and who benefited from it."

Meneses said they are also planning to call all estimated 150 nursing school deans to help in their investigation.

"Nursing colleges should have their own review centers, so we want to know why there are nursing graduates who review in other centers," he said.

There are speculations that they enrolled in review centers not connected with their schools to obtain the leakage in the examination. Preventing another leakage
The PRC, meanwhile, came up with a three-point recommendation to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) aimed at preventing another leakage in future licensure examinations.

In a joint statement, the PRC primarily wants CHED to integrate review courses in the college curriculum so that graduates who are set to take a licensure test will not depend on review centers.

"The PRC has resolved to propose to CHED to incorporate a three- to six-month review course in the curriculum and integrating at the end of the course work to provide the needed synthesis to examinees," the PRC said.

The statement was signed by PRC Chairwoman Leonor Rosero and Commissioners Avelina de la Rea and Renato Valdecantos and Board of Nursing (BON) members Eufemia Octaviano, Remedios Fernandez, Letty Kuan and Estelita Galutira.

Dionisio and Madeja are members of BON, whose manuscripts of tests 3 and 5 were supposedly distributed to some reviewers at R.A. Gapuz Review Center, Pentagon Review Centers and Institute for Review and Special Studies owned by resigned Philippine Nurses Association president George Cordero.

Cordero is being investigated by the Senate after witnesses testified that he organized an "enhancement review class" at the Cinema 9 of SM Manila where the leaked questions were flashed on screen through a Powerpoint presentation.

When approved, the PRC proposal is seen to pave the way for the natural death of review centers in the country.

But De La Rea noted that "cross enrollment" in review courses should be allowed so that students in one school could review in other schools.

A PRC insider claimed that some review centers resort to leakage to increase their passing rate in licensure examinations thus, enticing more reviewees.

"There are some review centers with distorted orientation. They become profit-oriented. They have ceased to provide knowledge to their reviewees," the insider added.

Credentials for thousands of would-be nurses are under a cloud because of alleged cheating in recent licensure examinations.

But while local hospitals refuse to hire new nursing graduates due to the controversy, a high demand for Filipino nurses abroad is projected by the government.

Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Rosalinda Baldoza said the leakage scandal is unlikely to affect the hiring of Filipino nurses in the United States and other countries.

"The unfortunate incident is an isolated one and it will not prejudice the chances for good employment of our qualified nurses who have become the much sought after healthcare workers in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, North America and Africa," Baldoz noted.

She explained that the local nursing licensure exam is not the sole gauge of foreign employers in determining the capability of Filipino nurses. — With Aurea Calica, Mayen Jaymalin

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