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Labor chief to decide nursing exam retake

Labor chief to decide nursing exam retake
By Aurea Calica And Evelyn Macairan
The Philippine Star 10/08/2006

Labor Secretary Arturo Brion may have to make the final decision on the nursing board examination retake, whose fate hangs after a series of flip-flops from Malacañang.

The labor department was designated as the oversight agency of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and there are reports that the executive order that Malacañang will issue next week will authorize Brion to take the appropriate actions to uphold the integrity of the nursing profession — tainted by the alleged leakage of test questions in the nursing board exams held last June 11 and 12.

Presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor said Brion had been leading discussions in the Cabinet on a possible retake of the leakage-tainted exams.

He said there were conflicting opinions on the matter but Brion was tasked to discuss them with stakeholders.

But Defensor admitted that the earlier decision to have all examinees retake Tests No. 3 and No. 5, from where questions were reportedly leaked, was premature since the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had not yet submitted its final report on the nursing test scam.

Malacañang had backtracked on an earlier announcement for a retake of the test and officials gave the NBI until Monday to complete its probe so the government, led by Brion, would have a basis to make a fair decision on the matter. Mrs. Arroyo is expected to issue the executive order on Wednesday.

Brion had criticized Malacañang’s flip-flopping on the retake of the test for all examinees.

"What is clear now is that we have to see first a detailed report of the NBI on the leakage and its extent. It is definitely not right for us to make a decision without a clear report on what really happened," Defensor said.

Initial reports showed that the leakage benefited examinees in Manila and Baguio City, however, there are new reports that the leak occurred nationwide and a retake for all examinees is needed.

"It is unfair to prejudge everyone. We must be able to protect the innocent students and the profession at the same time," Defensor said.

He asked those concerned to give the government more time to be able to come up with the best decision for all.

"This is a very complicated issue that has to be decided on. We need to regain our credibility. Give us time and the investigation will be finished," Defensor said.

He said that aside from the results of the investigation, the government would also consider the pending case at the Court of Appeals.

"Our decision cannot be in conflict with CA. So we need to have a sound investigation and legal basis before acting on this. The results of the investigation are not yet conclusive, particularly on whether the leak occurred nationwide," he said.

The NBI said investigators were ordered to work over the weekend to complete the report for the filing of new charges against those responsible for the nursing test scam.

Regional irector Elfren Meneses Jr. of the NBI-Anti-Fraud and Computer Crimes Division said that he has already instructed his agents to work this weekend.

"We will work over the weekend. We will comply with the instruction of the President," said Meneses.

Malacañang had given the bureau a Monday deadline to submit its report on the case.

As of yesterday, the NBI investigators had already photocopied some of the attachments or annexes that would be submitted before the Office of the Ombudsman but their data is not yet complete. One of his agents is still in Baguio, where the alleged leakage was uncovered, to gather more details.

This is the second phase of their investigation and the agents are concentrating on the link to nursing review centers, Meneses said.

The first phase of their investigation resulted in the filing of charges last month against Board of Nursing (BON) members Virginia Madeja and Anesia Dionisio, who prepared the questions for Test 3 and 5.

The case was referred to the Office of the Ombudsman because the two officials are government employees. If found guilty of the crime, they might have to suffer between six-12 years imprisonment since they are principal respondents, the NBI official said. ‘Only Luzon affected"
Meanwhile, University of Santo Tomas Prof. Rene Tadle told television anchor Korina Sanchez of ABS-CBN Channel 2’s "Bandila" news program Friday night that the retake of the nursing test could affect only examinees in Luzon.

Tadle, one of the original petitioners in the case pending with the Court of Appeals regarding the nursing test scam, said it is possible that the excutive order of President Arroyo will only order a retake of Test 3 and 5 for all examinees from Luzon.

There are reports that some politicians in the Visayas are requesting that the retake be limited only to Luzon.

"Ang hindi natin made-determine dito kung sino ang nag-benefit sa leakage. Ang pangalawa, may e-mail, may text, maaaring maipasa kaagad yung leakage. At pangatlo, ’yung involved na review center, yung Gapuz Review Center, may mga branches ’yan sa different parts of the country (What we cannot determine is who benefited from the leakage. Second, we have-email, text, so it is possible that the leaked questions were immediately passed on. Third, the review center involved, the Gapuz Review Center, has branches in different parts of the country)," said Tadle.

Tadle said five examinees from Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and Baguio City have issued sworn statements linking a Manila-based review center to the leakage of questions on Tests 1 and 2.

He said based on the sworn statements, 50 questions that were leaked came out in the actual examination.

Tadle said the government should now review if the retake should cover Tests 1 to 5.


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