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DoLE stops nurses’ oath-taking

DoLE stops nurses’ oath-taking

Secretary Brion says CA decision still appealable Palace, PRC trying very hard to resolve issue


The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), which now supervises the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), stopped yesterday the scheduled oath-taking of some 17,000 board passers in the tainted nursing licensure exams last June, to avert further legal problems.

Labor Secretary Arturo Brion and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita discussed in Malacañang the government’s measures to end the nursing leakage scandal and to pave the way for a retake of portions of the exams before the regular nursing board exams scheduled in December.

The retake of Tests 3 and 5 of the nursing board exams last June was ordered by the Court of Appeals (CA) in its recent decision on petitions for a retake of the exams, some portions of which were found to have been leaked to three nursing review centers in Manila and Baguio, and subsequently received unknowingly by nursing graduates who attended the "final coaching session" of three review centers.

Ermita said Brion called off the oath-taking scheduled by PRC Chairwoman Leonor Tripon-Rosero on Monday morning to prevent further legal issues that may arise from the CA’s directive and, consequently, pose more hurdles to the government’s efforts to resolve the issue and restore the integrity of the country’s nurses in the eyes of employers.

"According to Secretary Brion, we cannot totally preclude the people who submitted the case before the Court of Appeals from submitting a motion for reconsideration," Ermita said.

Ermita added that "Brion thought it prudent to instruct PRC not to administer the oath" yet as the CA’s decision would need 15 more days after it has been served to the PRC for it to be final and executory. The CA’s order for the selective retake has yet to be received by the PRC as of yesterday afternoon.

Rosero had reportedly also been "reminded" that she should consult the DoLE in efforts to resolve the nursing licensure controversy, and that she should "refrain from making statements" that may further mess up the issue.

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Malacañang "would leave to the wisdom of Brion, in consultation with the affected parties, the mapping out of measures to close this issue and allow the nation to move on in its other equally vital affairs."

"We expect closure on this issue soon as justice is pursued against all errant quarters and a win-win solution is pursued with the participation of all stakeholders," Bunye said.

Brion’s proposal for a "conciliatory meeting" among the various stakeholders in the nursing industry would push through if approved by the CA.

Ermita said the conciliatory meeting, if approved by the CA, would try to convince proponents of a full retake of the exams to refrain from filing a motion for reconsideration against the CA’s decision for a selective retake.

The CA decision said the 1,687 examinees who initially failed but passed through the PRC’s implementation of the "Ibe Formula" which invalidated 20 questions of Test 3 and weighed down the value of results in Test 5 from 20 percent to 10 percent, should retake Tests 3 and 5.

The CA also said the 1,186 examinees who initially passed but failed as a result of the implementation of the Ibe Formula should be included in the oathtaking and granting of licenses to some 17,000 board passers last June.

Ermita said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and DoLE would still try to identify the examinees who attended the final coaching sessions of nursing review centers Gapuz, Inress, and Pentagon which were earlier identified by the NBI as having received the leakage of some portions of the nursing licensure exams last June.

The examinees who would be found to have received the leakage during the final coaching sessions would also have to retake Tests 3 and 5, according to the CA’s decision.

Ermita said the government is making preparations to hold the retake of Tests 3 and 5 before the next regular nursing board exams scheduled on Dec. 2 and 3.

The resignations offered by the members of the Board of Nursing amid the controversy of cheating in the last nursing board exams will be accepted by Mrs. Arroyo to pave the way for the appointment of a new set of board members which will craft the questions for the retake of Tests 3 and 5, and for the regular nursing board exams in December.

PRC bows to decision by labor department to delay oath-taking

The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) yesterday cancelled the oath-taking of nursing board passers upon the order of the Department of Labor and Employment which is designated as the oversight supervisor of the PRC.

Labor and Employment Secretary Arturo Brion said he had directed the suspension of administering the oath to new nurses because the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling "selective retake" in last June’s licensure exams is not yet final and executory.

"The temporary restraining order issued late August has a life of 60 days and it is considered in effect until all parties receive a copy of the Court of Appeals decision. As of now, the decision is not considered final," Brion told reporters.

Brion also raised the possibility that the CA decision could still be reversed 15 days after it has been received by the PRC. This, Brion pointed out, could cause a bigger problem if the nursing board passers have been allowed to take their oath and their licenses have been issued.

The Labor chief reiterated that he is pushing for a "conciliatory approach" between the parties involved to finally resolve the nursing exam leakage scandal that has tarnished the integrity and reputaton of the nursing industry.

Brion explained: "I’m not a party in the case but I have the direct control and supervision of the PRC. The government is really concern about what is happening because indicators show that some of the parties may file motions for reconsideration and the PRC has also indicated they will immediately implement the decision of the Court of Appeals."

Brion, a former appellate court justice, told reporters that he wrote the CA to consider his suggestions to stop the oath-taking and have a "limited" retake for the examinees in this year’s nursing licensure exam.

"In the past few days, stakeholders have been coming in and we (DOLE officials) have been in constant talks with them. In this way, all parties could air their sentiments and suggest solutions to the issue" he said.

"You have two opposite poles here, a retake or no retake. I could sense that there just might be some middle ground position that almost all will accept. If there is such, why we don’t find a way," Brion stressed.

In a related development, Brion said he already has a list of replacements for the Board of Nursing from among the nominees that were recommended by the PRC. The new members of the board will supervise the retake and the regular nursing exams this December.

The Court of Appeals ruled last Friday a retake of tests 3 and 5 for 1,687 examinees whose names were added to the list of some 17,000 passers following the PRC’s recomputation of the test scores.

The court also ordered the oath-taking and issuance of licenses to the 41.24 percent of examinees who originally passed the tests, because none of them attended the sessions conducted at the three review centers linked in the leak.

Solons want nursing graduates to render 2-year local service

Two committees of the House of Representatives have approved a bill that requires all nursing graduates from state-owned universities and colleges to render two years of service in the country prior to seeking employment abroad.

The Committees on Labor and Employment and on Civil Service and Professional Regulations also rejected two bills seeking the inclusion of all registered nurses to the mandatory local service.

Rep. Roseller Barinaga, chairman of the labor committee, said they have instead consolidated the two proposals and limited its scope to cover only registered nurses whose education was subsidized by the government.

The consolidated bill, House Bill No. 5791, was jointly authored by Reps. Janette L. Garin (Lakas, Iloilo); Generoso DC Tulagan (Kampi, Pangasinan); Herminia M. Ramiro (Lakas, Misamis Occidental) and Tranquilino Carmona (Kampi, Ngros Occidental).

"The intention is to prevent brain drain in the country, especially in the medical field. It is my belief that those whose education was subsidized from taxes, should at least give back something to their country," said Tulagan, chairman of the House Committee on Public Works and Highways.

Tulagan also urged the House leadership to include the measure in the list of priority measures before Congress closes next year.

Garin explained that only registered nurses who finished in state universities or colleges or those whose education was subsidized by government through scholarship programs will be covered by the proposal.

She said these nursing course graduates will present as proof their employment records from government-recognized or accredited establishments or institution prior to their departure for employment abroad.

Garin, a medical doctor, said exempted from the law are nurses who cannot find available employment in the country in the nursing profession or other related occupation in the medical field.

Under the bill a certification to be issued by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) should first be acquired by nurses before they can accept jobs abroad.

According to Garin, violators, which include the job applicant and officers of the job agency or nursing association, face imprisonment of six to ten years and a fine ranging from P50,000 to P100,000.

Gapuz Review Center ready to defend itself in court

Officials of the RA Gapuz Review Center (RAGRC) are ready to defend themselves in court should the Department of Justice formally file charges against them as recommended by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) regarding their alleged participation in the nursing test leakage.

At a press conference, RAGRC lawyer Karl Castillo said the company has been conducting its own probe in preparation for their defense in court, and the result of its inquiry will be submitted to the investigating authorities.

"Of course our investigation is confined to RA Gapuz because our knowledge is limited only to what happened in the Gapuz Review Center," he said.

"But once given the opportunity by the DOJ, which is in the proper forum, the RAGRC Board will confront the evidence relied upon in the NBI report and will present its own evidence proving its innocence," he pointed out.

But Castillo said the company has yet to receive an official copy of the NBI report.

Dr. Eleonor Artemia Gapuz, RAGRC president and CEO, said the move of the NBI and that of the CA ruling last Friday was a welcome development for the review center, adding "the review center serve as unwitting participants in the investigation for the pursuit of truth and justice in the nursing profession."

"We regard this as an opportunity to prove that we have no involvement in the leakage issue. Our name has been dragged and maliciously accused so many times. The opportunity has now come to confront the accusations against us in the proper forum. We have always been confident that we will get through this clean," she said in the company’s official statement.

Dr. Gapuz said she was no longer surprised when the NBI ruling included RAGRC as among those review centers that have participated in the nursing test leakage conducted last June.

"Even before the issue exploded, we were already among the suspects. So this really did not shock us," she said.

The NBI on Friday named RAGRC, Pentagon Review Center and INRESS Review Center as sources of leakage in the June 11 to 12 nursing examination.

Ray Gapuz, RAGRC founder, maintained that the company has "not violated the law and has not conspired among themselves or with third persons in any alleged violation of the PRC Modernization Act."

A nurse himself, Mr. Gapuz said the board passers should be given the chance to prove their worth.

"We will respect whatever is the decision of the authorities. But caring is measured not by the multiple test questions but by how our new nurses ease the suffering of the patients. Let’s give them the opportunity to serve. For all we know from this batch comes the great nurses of the future," he said.

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