Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

Bello just wants to be famous for 2022

Jul 10, 2021, 6:10 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Columnist

It is often said that if you want to be famous and your name recalled, rock the boat, counter the status quo and do what most people would find ridiculous now so that you will be talked/written about, your issues broken into bits and pieces and voila you have name recall.

This is what Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd is exactly doing since he has his eyes on the 2022 polls, where he would run for a Senate seat. But with an idea as crazy as his—scrapping the board and bar thereby leaving our country with substandard professionals in the future—then he does not deserve a vote for any position.

On Friday, Bello said he was not for scrapping the board and bar exams but just a study on its relevance and impact to our society, esp. now that we are faced with a health crisis and a shortage of medical front liners. But records—video and newspaper stories—have directly quoted him as saying “tanggalin yang board and bar” which is directly translatable to scrap the board and bar.

At this juncture, Bello is expected to deny completely having uttered his thoughts about this issue. As is typical of those in power today, he would say he was misquoted or his words were taken out of context. The most convenient excuse that almost everyone in this administration does.

But he can’t deny that he floated this idea in a speech before the Philippine Nurses Association and the Professional Regulatory Board of Nursing during their meeting in connection with the forthcoming nursing licensure examination for some 9,000 aspiring nurses.

He said that “nursing is an expensive course where students, during their 4-year studies, have gone through a lot of examinations. "Four years after graduating you will still be made to take the board. Why take another examination when you have already undergone a lot of examinations while studying. I believe that you don't need it if the school where you graduated is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education.” Of course, this would be music to the ears of those who do not want any more mental challenges but a bane to current professionals who have to deal with substandard graduates.

Dr. Tony Leachon, in his virtual nightly commentaries, said “if that happens we would be left with substandard doctors and nurses, putting the lives of patients in their hands, and this would result in higher deaths for our country.” And I completely agree with Leachon’s prognosis.

If Bello is trying to pattern this after some European countries—where college education is really premium and super high standard therefore producing quality front line practitioners—this can not be completely said about the quality of our educational system, especially at the primary and secondary levels (the foundation of higher education), which leave much to be desired.Look at our elementary and high school levels—both public schools and private—we have been ranking so low in reading comprehension, math and science, so how else can we survive as a country?

Bello said—if elected—this would be his “pet bill” as a lawmaker. “But I have not yet made up my mind if I will run [for senator] in the 2022 elections."

There you have it—he rocks the boat so people talk and write about him and therefore he would stick in the minds of electors (esp. those about to take the board and bar) for next year’s elections. Cheap shot. I feel sorry for falling into the bandwagon, but this proposal makes me mad, like most people are.

He truly has achieved fame and notoriety for such proposal—fame for those who are now in senior years in college and are about to face the board and bar and notoriety for those who want the status quo to remain for the obvious reason that it professionalizes the practice of medicine, nursing, engineering and others.

In a recent online breakfast forum hosted by Melo Acuna, the Professional Regulations Commission—which undertakes the professional licensure exams—said that because of computerization of tests, board passers have just been a mere 18 percent. Such a low outcome, I should say, considering that each year thousands of students vying for a license in their respective fields try out the board. Failing so, they need to retake the exams the following year or until third try if I am not mistaken.

Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr., of AKO Bicol Partylist and chair of the committee on constitutional amendments, gave his assessment as:

“Sapagkat hindi pare-pareho ang standards of education sa mga colleges and universities at varied din ang quality ng mastery ng graduates, the board exams are there as a quality assurance mechanism to assure the public that the graduates allowed to engage in public practice of their profession have the basic minimum level of mastery of the subject matter covered by their professions for public practice of the professions.”

The professions with board exams-- nursing, dentistry, engineering, law, accountancy, education-- have these two key factors in common. Other professions the ones without board exams do not have direct and close indirect impact on public health and public safety as well as other key roles important to the functioning of the State and public welfare.

According to the framers of the State policy, the laws with licensure examinations and on professional conduct are crucial to the functioning of the State and the delivery of public services, ensuring public health and public safety.

Congress, by authority of the Filipino people, are empowered to safeguard public health and safety and ensuring the functioning of the State and its public services and the welfare of the people. Kaya po bawat profession na may public practice ay mayroong kani-kaniyang batas (e.g. RA 11241 Philippine Occupational Therapy Law, RA 9173 Philippine Nursing Act).

One sector exempted from professional regulation by law is the sector of the media. The media is protected by UNABRIDGED freedom of expression and freedom of the press as enshrine in our Constitution.

Bottomline: The continued conduct of board exams protects the public good and the dignity of each profession; therefore, our government must retain it, safeguard it, make it better, Garbin stressed.

It must be recalled that Bello is not just a professional businessman and lawyer from Isabela but also held several positions in government before his current one at DOLE and as presidential adviser on the (failed) peace process. He was former justice secretary, solicitor general and a representative of 1-BAP partylist during the 16th congress.

He was appointed by the late President Corazon Aquino as governor of Isabela as part of the sweeping change of head of local governments after the 1986 EDSA Revolution. He ran in 1988 local elections but lost to his predecessor Faustino Dy who held the position from 1972.

Word from CJ Gesmundo

Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said he is against the abolition of the Bar exams as proposed by Bello. “I don’t see the need to abolish the Bar exam. We must continue having the Bar exam,” Gesmundo said in an interview.

“I respect the view of Secretary Bello but as far as the practice of law, I think we should maintain the Bar examinations so that we can sift those who are competent, considering the nature of the legal profession."

Neither did Bello’s proposal sit well with his audience, the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA).

In an interview on Super Radyo dzBB, PNA national president Melbert Reyes said they and the Board of Nursing "immediately rejected" Bello’s proposal when the secretary raised it in a meeting on health worker deployment ban earlier this week.


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