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"Don’t let them take No. 9 away from me"

‘Don’t let them take No. 9 away from me’
By Norman Bordadora, Vincent Cabreza
Last updated 01:28am (Mla time) 10/08/2006

Published on page A1 of the October 8, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE ninth placer of the top 10 passers in the tainted nursing licensure examination yesterday balked at the planned retake, saying the pressure would be too much to endure.

Speaking at the weekly Kapihan sa Sulo news forum, a tearful Claudine Navalta summed up her sentiments—and perhaps those of the others who passed the five-part exam held on June 11 and 12—about the retake being proposed as a means to address the cheating scandal.

“I’m afraid to take the examination again. I’m afraid, not because I cheated, but because of the high level of anxiety that goes with having to go through it again,” said Navalta, 21, a graduate of the World Citi Colleges in Quezon City.

She said that her parents had worked hard to put her through nursing school, and that she had done her utmost to not only pass the exam but also hurdle it with distinction.

Navalta was responding to the question of whether the board passers would rather go through a retake or carry the cheating stigma throughout their professional life as nurses.

“There’s tension, especially for me, because I placed ninth in the exam. Let them not take away from me what I and my parents had worked hard for,” she said between sobs.

Told that a retake would give her a chance to be No. 1, Navalta said: “I’m satisfied with what I have.”

She admitted having registered with the R.A. Gapuz Review Center, one of the refresher schools implicated in the leak of test questions.

“But I did not receive any leak. If I had, all of my friends would have passed,” she said.

Civil disobedience

Also at the Kapihan, the father of two board passers threatened civil disobedience through a snub of the retake being planned by Malacañang.

“We’ll tell our children not to take the exam if [President Macapagal-Arroyo] issues the executive order on the retake. That is our right,” said Dr. Raul Grageda, an orthopedic and trauma doctor at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

He said his children—Muriel and Michael, both nursing graduates of the Philippine Women’s University who both took review classes at one of the Gapuz centers—“didn’t cheat.”

Grajeda is one of the leaders of the Alliance of Parents of 2006 Nursing Board Passers.

His group and that of the board passers, the Alliance of New Nurses (ANN), maintain that the government should first wait for the ruling of the Court of Appeals on a pending petition against a retake of the June exam.

“Some personalities in the local community believe that a stigma has been placed on the board passers and the nursing profession, when in fact they themselves are giving the public reckless, unjustifiable information,” the ANN said in a statement.

For example, it said, the report on some hospitals not being inclined to hire the board passers has been denied by many hospital administrators and chief nurses of health institutions.

It cited another “misleading” piece of information that said the US National Council Licensure Examination could not be administered in the Philippines because of the scandal.

“[But the] spokesperson of the NCLEX disagreed because according to them, what they are after is the political stability of the country, and not [the resolution of] the leakage controversy,” the ANN said.

Hate e-mails, blogs

In Baguio City, the people who exposed the cheating are now the subject of hate e-mails and blogs.

The whistle-blowers are composed of 92 examinees and a number of nursing school deans and lawyers in Baguio. They filed the first complaint before the Professional Regulation Commission about test questions allegedly leaked by clients of the Gapuz center in the city.

The center is owned by Ricarte Gapuz, a registered nurse, who is among the pioneers of the review center industry for nursing.

Some of the e-mails and blogs were well-researched and tended to attack prominent members of the group of whistle-blowers.

One questioned the involvement of Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, the group’s lawyer. She is married to acting Bagiuo Vice Mayor Leandro Yangot Jr., who was among the seven bar examinees who asked the Supreme Court to nullify the test on mercantile law in the 2003 bar examination.

An anonymous message written in Filipino and posted on the Pinoy BSN blog read: “What makes her (Daytec-Yangot) impressive? She’s the wife of the whistle-blower of the bar exam. I can only say one thing—both of them have nothing better to do so they make up stories to become popular. It’s hard to be famous in the legal profession.”

Protecting the passers

An e-mail to Daytec-Yangot said the PRC should be held accountable for not resolving the scandal early enough. But it also asked the lawyer why she “did not protect” the board passers from the commission.

“Right at the start, your stand was for [a retake]—even when it was not too late for the PRC to act against the examiners and others involved,” the writer said, adding:

“Why did you not recommend ways that will avoid a retake, considering that it is quite prejudicial to [the] innocent [who passed the June exam]? In the 2003 bar exam, without [any] precedent, passers thought a retake was not right, so they fought [against] it and won.

“In the 2006 nursing scandal, there is already an existing precedent, so you should have been solicitous about the passers’ rights...”

But Daytec-Yangot said her group—which includes Ruth Thelma Tingda, governor of the Philippine Nurses Association, and Mary Grace Lacanaria, nursing school dean of the Saint Louis University—would “not be cowed.”

The group petitioned the Court of Appeals last month to compel the examinees to retake the “spoiled portions” of the board exam.

The appellate court earlier granted the University of Sto. Tomas a temporary restraining order to bar the PRC from processing and issuing nursing licenses to the board passers, after the PRC allowed them to take their oath on Aug. 17.

The whistle-blowers did get some support from chat room users and other bloggers.

A participant in the Pinoy BSN discussion group said the whistle-blowers should be supported because they had “the guts” to expose the cheating.

‘Not in Cebu’

In Cebu City, the fourth-placer in the Top 10 dismissed the disclosure on Friday of Rene Luis Tadle, president of the Faculty Association of the School of Nursing of the UST, that the cheating in the board exam was nationwide in scope. (See story on Page A1.)

MaeLaurece Plaza said that even if the implicated review centers had branches all over the country, it did not mean that the other branches had also gotten hold of the leaked test questions.

“Probably the leakage was in Manila and Baguio, but it did not reach Cebu,” said Plaza, who admitted that she was one of those who took classes at the Gapuz center in Cebu for two months before the exam.

Around 500 nurses from different parts of the Visayas registered for the review held at an uptown hotel in Cebu City, she said.

Plaza said it was unfair to drag into the scandal the other nursing graduates who had reviewed at the centers.

‘Sour grapes’

Cebu City Councilor Edgardo Labella, lawyer of the 1,723 board passers in Cebu who have formed the group Tanan (or Tapoktapok sa mga Nagkahiusang Nurses Batok sa Retake), downplayed Tadle’s disclosure.

“I found out that most of those who had complained were flunkers of UST. The cum laude of the university also did not pass [the board exam]. Maybe they were hurt that most of the passers came from the provinces, like Cebu. That’s what we call sour grapes,” Labella said in Cebuano.

He said he knew that most of the complainants were flunkers because during the Court of Appeals hearing on Sept. 14, the presiding justice asked the complainants if they had passed the exam.

Labella said he would not have commented on the issue because of the pending petitions in court. He said he was compelled to do so because of Tadle’s disclosure.

He said the petitioners from UST did not mention this information during the hearing.

‘Not in Iligan’

At a rally on Thursday in Iligan City, which was attended by about 200 board passers from Northern Mindanao, protesters said the retake should be held only in areas where the leak of test questions had occurred.

“Examinees from Northern Mindanao passed the exams on their own effort. We did not benefit from any leak,” Yasmine Latras told the Inquirer.

Louwei Yee voiced a similar position, saying Malacañang should have considered that the cheating was confined to Luzon. With reports from Jhunnex Napallacan, Inquirer Visayas; Ritchie Umel, Inquirer Mindanao

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer


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