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Palace clams up anew on exams

Palace clams up anew on exams
By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star 10/08/2006

Smarting from criticisms that it has been flip-flopping on the nursing licensure examination controversy, Malacañang yesterday refused anew to comment on the issue pending the submission of the final report by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the alleged leakage of test questions.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor, in separate interviews, said there would be no more statements on the nursing test scam until the NBI report is completed. They said the final decision of Malacañang on the exams will be based on the NBI report.

"We’d prefer to wait for the report of the NBI before we issue any more statements," Ermita said in a telephone interview. "We will be taking up the matter in the Cabinet on Tuesday. Let’s wait for that."

He said the Palace would not want to contribute to the confusion over the issue.

This developed as two congressmen urged President Arroyo to stop flip-flopping and dilly-dallying on the nursing examination controversy and immediately order a retake of the entire five-part examinations.

Defensor said there was a unanimous decision among Cabinet members and other officials — both for and against a retake — to wait for the NBI report.

The NBI report is expected to come out today> It is expected to contain the recommendation to file charges against the owners of nursing review centers involved in the leakage of test questions.

NBI investigators will also determine the extent of the leakage that was initially reported to have occurred only in Luzon, but new reports indicate that the scam could have also involved examinees in the Visayas and Mindanao.

"There was no indecisiveness on the part of Malacañang. The Cabinet will study and decide on the matter," Defensor said.

Malacañang officials are apparently avoiding more controversial statements after President Arroyo was criticized for changing her mind at least twice on the proposed retake of the examinations.

Palace officials earlier said the President would have the final decision on the matter but moves to undertake a retake have been deferred twice.

The first time was to wait for the ruling of the Court of Appeals on the case filed by the faculty of the University of Sto. Tomas College of Nursing to nullify the results of the June licensure examinations.

Next was the decision to wait for the NBI report following the protests on her order for a retake and the lobbying by some lawmakers and officials of the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC).

Adding to the controversy was the different positions of Labor Secretary Arturo Brion who wants the President to order a retake and PRC officials who rejected a retake and insisted that the overall results of the examinations were not affected by the leakage.

Despite efforts to put out a common statement on the controversy, some Cabinet officials still differed on the matter.

Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo said the NBI report and the nursing leakage issue would not be taken up as a special agenda during tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting.

Saludo said there would be a regular Cabinet meeting but the agenda was "confidential."

Rep. Abraham Mitra of Palawan said the President should not limit her options to decisions that are popular since her duty is to order what is right.

He said only a retake can remove the stigma of a leakage that has tainted the nursing profession.

However, before the President orders a retake of the test, the culprits behind the leakage must first be apprehended, Mitra said.

"This way, there will be less resistance from examinees. Before victims are told to make amends, the perpetrators must first be brought to the bar of justice. Otherwise, if a retest is ordered before the culprits are apprehended, the government would be admitting that a crime has indeed been committed but there was no criminal," Mitra said.

The President has been wavering on the retake of the test.

She is waiting a report from the NBI, due to be submitted today, before she makes a final decision.

Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago also urged Mrs. Arroyo to end the nursing test controversy by ordering a general retake of all examinees.

"Sadly, the examinations have become so heavily tainted that only a retake would completely redeem our candidates and the nursing profession," he said.

He said Malacañang and the PRC have been dilly-dallying for four long months and have yet to come up with a final decision to correct the irregularity in the nursing exam.

He said based on latest reports, it has become apparent that cheating was not limited to Luzon but was nationwide.

"The only reason a number of examinees are now protesting is because the PRC failed to take a determined action to fix the problem. The candidates are tired and sick of waiting for a definite resolution, and rightly so," he added. - With Jess Diaz, Helen Flores


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