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Measures against fraud in licensure exams ordered

Measures against fraud in licensure exams ordered


President Arroyo yesterday directed Labor and Education officials to craft concrete measures to insulate professional licensure examinations from fraud, including a proposed legislation imposing heavier penalties on perpetrators of the crime.

The President said authorities must avoid a repeat of the leakage of the June nursing licensure exams, as she regretted the "stigma" brought by the scandal to the pool of Filipino professionals.

"President Arroyo has instructed the Department of Labor, the Professional Regulations Commission, the Commission on Higher Education, and other concerned agencies to come up with specific and concrete measures that will insulate all licensure examinations and procedures, protect their integrity, and clear the way of any doubts on the excellence of Filipino professionals," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in his weekly column "View from the Palace" which appeared in yesterday’s issue of the Manila Bulletin.

"The Executive branch will come up with a proposed bill for Congress, if necessary, that will impose stiffer penalties on those who would trifle with the integrity of our professional standards," Bunye added.

Bunye said the government intends to protect the integrity and competitiveness of Filipino students and professionals "who comprise our principal and most important resources" in the aftermath of the scandal-tainted nursing exams.

"The recent controversy surrounding the nursing licensure examination has struck a blow and unfairly brought a stigma to Filipino professionalism. All stakeholders should join hands to ensure that this never happens again," he said.

Malacañang earlier said it will abide by the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) for a selective retake of the June exams that were marred by test leakage.

Following the CA decision on the nursing test leak, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion no longer submitted to the President his recommendation for a retake.

Brion said the Executive branch may be held in "contempt of court" if it pursues the planned administrative order for a retake of the leak-tainted exams.

With the approval of the President, Brion said he would instead send a letter to the Appellate court seeking a "conciliation approach" to finally put closure to the controversy.

"I will write a letter to the Court of Appeals if it could summon all parties and work out what would be acceptable to most, if not all, that will close this affair while maintaining the integrity of exams," he said in a teleconference with reporters.

Brion said he already informed Associate Justice Vicente Veloso about his conciliation proposal, which he claimed was a "regular process" in the Appellate court. Among the possible agenda of the conciliation discussion would be government’s initial proposal to shoulder the costs of the retake, according to the former CA judge.

Meanwhile, government was asked yesterday to compel all nursing schools to adopt a transparency policy that would allow prospective enrollees to make an intelligent choice on what school they would go to.

This developed as Reps. Edwin Uy (Lakas, Isabela), chairman of the House Committee on Bases Conversion and Development, and Marcelino Libanan (Lakas, Eastern Samar), vice chairman of the House Committee on Justice, urged the Professional Regulation Commission to set the selective retake on the nursing licensure examination this December to help put a closure to the exam controversy at the soonest possible time.

In a separate press statement, Rep. Abraham Mitra (LP, Palawan) said nursing schools should be compelled to inform prospective enrollees on how they fared in previous nursing licensure tests. He added that they should "fully and publicly disclose" their passing rate in nursing board exams administered by the Professional Regulation Commission.

"Nursing schools have been enticing enrollees with teasers like "Trabaho Agad!" but many omit the most important fact that a prospective student should have and that is the school’s performance in PRC exams," he said.

Mitra is proposing that the "report card on the PRC performance" of a nursing school should form "part of its literature, printed in its prospectus, posted in its website, and indicated in posters that will be displayed in its campus."

Uy and Libanan said a closure of the nursing leakage controversy may not be achieved fully unless authorities pursue the prosecution of those involved in the leakage of questions for the nursing licensure exam, and effectively plug loopholes for all other future licensure exams, including those in other fields.

The two administration solons further said the PRC should be prepared for the possibility that someone would seek a reconsideration of the CA ruling which ordered 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 test scores.

Uy said implementing the selective retake in December was necessary and attainable. "It will provide us with a fresh start next year if we implement the retake before 2006 ends. The PRC should ensure the selective retake will be credible and honest," he explained.

However, Uy stressed that a selective retake does not mean the prosecution of all those behind the leakage of the test questions will no longer be pursued by government.

"Their greed and unscrupulous nature caused a huge dent on the integrity and reputation of the nursing profession and put the future of thousands of nurses at stake. They have to pay under the law," the Isabela solon said.


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