Byline: REY G. PANALIGAN
The Court of Appeals (CA) stopped yesterday the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and the Board of Nursing (BoN) from proceeding with the scheduled oath-taking of more than 14,000 new nurses on Tuesday, Aug. 22, pending a resolution of the case filed against the two agencies.
In a temporary restraining order (TRO) contained in a resolution written by Associate Justice Vicente SE Veloso, the CA ordered a public hearing on Sept. 14 on the petition filed by the College of Nursing Faculty Association of the University of Santo Tomas (CNFA-UST), the League of Concerned Nurses, and Binuklod na Samahan ng mga Student Nurse.
Meanwhile, the PRC presided over the oath-taking of 1,374 new nurses in Cebu City yesterday, even as other nursing examination passers took their oaths in Metro Manila, Bacolod, and Iloilo cities.
A memorandum signed by PRC Chairwoman Leonor Tripon-Rosero said: "Please be informed that the conduct of oathtaking for those who have passed the June 2006 Nursing Board Examination starts today, Aug. 17, 2006, at your respective regions."
In the meantime, the PRC and the BoN were directed to comment on the petition in 10 days. Associate Justices Conrado Vasquez Jr. and Rebecca Salvador de Guia concurred in the resolution.
The CA stopped the PRC and the BoN from enforcing Board Resolution No. 31 which states that "20 test items out of 100 in Test III were very similar in content or substance with the leaked materials, and 90 items out of 100 in Test V were identical in substance, forms, situations and choices with the leaked materials."
"To preserve the rights of the petitioners pending disposition of the subject petition and so as not to render any judgment hereon moot and academic, the temporary restraining order prayed is granted," the CA said.
"Effective for a period of sixty (60) days from receipt of this resolution, the respondents and all those acting in their behalf are directed to cease and desist from enforcing the assailed Board Resolution 31 ..., and from proceeding with the oath-taking allegedly scheduled on Aug. 22, 2006 of those who reportedly passed the June 11 and 26 examinations for nurse licensure," the CA ordered.
In their petitions, the three groups led by the CNFA-UST told the CA that the PRC and the BoN should keep and safeguard the integrity and competence of the Philippine nursing profession "by ensuring that only those who have qualified in appropriate examinations are allowed into the profession."
The CA was also told that they obtained a copy of Resolution 31 of the BoN, but they were outraged upon learning that the board and the commission approved a scheme for using the grades from the other portions of the examinations in computing the grades from the invalidated portions "although the resolution invalidated portions of the nursing examinations given on June 1112, 2006 due to the leakage."
They said that in computing the final grade of the examinees, the PRC committed grave abuse of discretion when it combined the scores in Tests I to IV to the scores in Test V since 100 of the questions in Tests I to IV contained concepts similar to Test V.
"The nurse, who may have actually lacked competence in neuro-psychiatric nursing but was admitted to the profession based on engineered computation of her grade could do some irreversible... The interest of public health and safety demands that only nurses who have been properly screened for their competencies are allowed to perform the tasks assigned to them," they said.
They pointed out that under Section 14 of Article IV of Republic Act 9173 or the New Nursing Law, it is the duty of the PRC and the BN to compute the scores of the examinations based on the results of the tests for the five areas.
"In determining the competencies of the examinees, minus the result of the fifth test in the area of neuro-psychiatric nursing, respondent BN of the PRC deliberately ignored, in violation of Section 14, the objectives of the nursing curriculum and the broad areas of nursing that included neuro-psychiatric nursing as indispensable discipline for all who desire to enter the profession," they stressed.
At the same time, they said the scheme adopted by the PRC and BoN violated Section 15, Article IV, of RA 9173 which provides for the ratings that examinees needed to pass the examinations for nursing.
"Resort to the results of the other tests to compensate for the lack of scores in the annulled examination for Test V cannot be regarded as substantial and just compliance with what the law requires," they added.
They said they have asked the PRC to suspend or postpone the Aug. 22 oath-taking to no avail. Thus, they added, their remedy was to go to court.
As this developed, PRC director for Western Visayas Dan Malayang said that some of the board passers who trooped to Cebu to attend the oath-taking came from Manila and Mindanao. He added that PRC chairwoman Rosero approved the oath-taking.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Education Committee leading the probe, immediately scored the PRC for issuing the order.
He said that "the PRC is violating the integrity and standard of the licensure exams by fast-tracking [the oath-taking]."
The PRC pointed out that an investigation is already being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation, saying that it will act on the results of the NBI probe.
It also maintained that its move to push through with the oath-taking was "for the benefit of the majority and not the few opposing groups."
"We should act as an administrative body to protect the rights of the (board) passers...to practice their profession," the PRC said. (with a report by Shianee Mamanglu)
Malacanang distances itself from nursing exam leakage issue
By GENALYN D. KABILING
Malacanang yesterday said it would not a lift a finger in the raging scandal triggered by an alleged leak in the June 2006 nursing licensure examination for now.
Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the Professional Regulation Commission has the situation "under control" despite complaints the state-run agency allegedly mismanaged the last licensure exams.
"Our assessment is that the situation is under control. We don't see any reason as of this time for the Palace to intervene," Bunye said in a news conference in the Palace.
A group of nursing school deans has asked President Arroyo to accept the resignation of the seven-member Board of Nursing of the PRC and appoint a temporary caretaker board until the December exams may be prepared.
The PRC has pushed through with the oath-taking of new nurses despite an ongoing probe by the National Bureau of Investigation on the alleged test leak. The agency also threatened to revoke the licenses of nurses found guilty of benefiting from the leakage based on the results of the NBI investigation.
The controversy stemmed from the complaint of an examinee who testified before a Senate inquiry that she saw other examinees from R.A. Gapuz Review Center reading photocopies which she later found out the leaked questions from the review center.
Rachel Cyndi-Erfe has since been joined in her complaint by 91 other examinees and 425 intervenors. The controversy triggered a debate whether all the 42,000 examinees retake the licensure test to maintain its integrity and standard.
As this developed, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez defended yesterday this year's nursing examinees from the sanction imposed by the PRC, which invalidated portions of the over-all nursing test.
He said it is most unfair to impose such sanction considering that it affects even the innocent examinees.
"That's unfair for the majority of those who took the test, who did not cheat. Why are you punishing them? They worked for it. I don't think the integrity of the exam board should be used to punish those students who passed the exam," he said.
Gonzalez said the leakage of information on the tests should not be taken as cheating committed by the examinees. (with a report by Gabriel Mabutas)…