DESPERATE "LESSON" FROM THE 2006 NURSING LEAKAGE

Last night, I was watching TV and there was The Queen's Executive muchacho declaring Malacañang's disgust over a dialogue in the September 30, 2007 episode of "Desperate Housewives."

The character Susan Mayer Delfino said: "Okay, before we go any further, can I check these diplomas? Because I would just like to make sure they are not from some med school in the Philippines."

Malacañang had this coming. For the record, I am not saying that I agree with Susan Mayer Delfino. I am upset. I am incensed. I inked my signature on the petition demanding apology from ABC and Desperate Housewives.

Desperate Housewives
must apologize. But Malacanang does not stand on a moral high ground as it demands it. In fact, Malacanang must apologize to Desperate Housewives for feeding it a false information. The derogatory statement is an offshoot of Malacanang's handling or, more appropriately, mishandling of the 2006 nursing exam fraud which was elevated into a scandal of international magnitude.

When examinees and nursing leaders complained to the PRC about the leakage of test questions, it ignored them because their complaint was "not official" even if they presented indubitable evidences of fraud. (Under the PRC Modernization Law, the PRC can investigate examination irregularities on its own without need of a complaint. This it neglected or, rather, refused to do). They filed an official complaint. Without looking into it, PRC issued a statement that there was no cheating. The fraud was cavalierly swept under the rug by the very same agency mandated by law to protect the credibility of licensure tests. The complaint was liberally injected with sleeping pills. The complainants' lawyer had to trade insults with some PRC officials before they finally retrieved the complaint from the slumber box.

Ignoring the complainants' call for the creation of an independent, competent fact-finding body, PRC assumed the task of investigation. The complainants had every reason not to trust it. After all, it precipitately dismissed the allegations of fraud even in the face of compelling evidence.

After resolute follow-ups by the complainants, PRC issued a resolution affirming that the exam was marred by cheating, but declined to pinpoint the culprits. Notably, it cleared itself of any involvement. It also referred the matter to the NBI for determination of the guilty, claiming that it did not have the competence to do it. (But that was why the complainants did not want them to investigate. Its people were evidently incompetent.) PRC Chair Leonor Rosero announced the forthcoming release of the exam result. Alarmed, the complainants wrote a letter asking PRC to adopt as its most urgent agenda the removal of the thick mist of doubt plaguing the test's integrity. In their letter, they warned PRC of more problems as a consequence of a premature release.

It released the results anyway. All hell broke loose. Whereas before, noise was coming from the cold northern mountains, this time it was reverberating from every corner in the country. The leakage became a national scandal. The complainants asked The Queen to step into the fray and reverse the PRC. She retreated into autism (as she often does when it is the small people asking government to do its job). Then the national scandal quickly metamorphosed into a badge of international shame. The Filipino people were polarized over the issue of retake. The "passers," cheaters and non-cheaters alike (There was no way to tell who was what and who was what not.) were attacked by questions on their competence and credibility. Calls for Rosero's resignation mounted. The Queen refused to budge. (It was later found out that Rosero's husband was a powerful PAGCOR guy close to The Queen's FG of AB..ZTE..FG notoriety. Rosero herself was -still is- The Queen's personal dentist. I stopped wondering why Rosero was so durable.)

The complainants -this time, a bigger multitude- went to the Senate. PRC ignored the body citing EO 464. They also went to the Court of Appeals seeking the nullification of the leaked exams and praying for retake.

By golly, the country was chaotic. Only blood and gore were absent to make it a killing field. Examinees, nurses here and abraod, nursing school deans, politicians, parents, students, nursing review centers and other stakeholders were shooting at one another. Someone in the palace was very happy, eager to capitalize on the bedlam to reinforce her illegitimate powers. When the country's berth of patience was saturated with desperation and everyone was praying for a messiah, The Queen stepped out of her ivory tower and shouted, "No retake!" She waited for applause. It was deafeningly loud. She was pleased until she realized that the quarters wanting cleansing through retake had an equally resounding voice. Reversing herself, she hollered, "Retake." More chaos. Realizing that any move she made at that point was political suicide, she declared in her distinctive, androgynous monotone, "I leave the issue to the Court of Appeals." Typical of her. (Shades of Honor the ZTE deal; Withdraw the ZTE deal.) The CA came out with a decision that pleased and displeased the public. Still more chaos. But the heat was off Malacañang; it was on the CA. (The Queen is still living under the rule of the Old Testament. She loves sacrificial lambs.)

While the country was struggling to come to terms with the nursing scandal, more reports of leakage in other licensure tests came out.

The USA, the number 1 absorber of the Philippine nursing labor force, was watching in the sidelines like a hawk. Even it could take so much ineptude. Through the CGFNS, it expressed its disappointment. To make a really long and winding story short, the USA said, "You want to come to the USA? Retake. Your license is valid for purposes of practising in your country, but not here." Haha. It virtually said that the "passers" were a possible menace to the American public's health without passing a retake. How could the Philippine government let them loose in an unsuspecting health service-consuming public? Loud was a veiled albeit sharp rebuke of the Philippine government for its incompetence in handling fraud which made indelible the stigma attending the license of the June 2006 nursing exam passers who would not retake.

Surely, Desperate Housewives owes the Filipino people an apology. But it owes Malacañang nothing. It was Malacañang that gave every reason for some outside quarters to doubt the competence of Philippine graduates of professions providing medical and allied health services. Malacañang should now apologize to the medical profession for making them vulnerable to undeserved slander and racial slur.

Again, I salute the examinees and nursing leaders who did not waver in their search for justice no matter how elusive it was. It was a long journey. It was a tiring journey. It was a disappointing journey. But to have begun it was a noble quest.


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(You may be interested to read an analysis of the scandal by me and UST Prof. Rene Tadle, published by the Manila Times in October 2006:
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