Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Villar apologizes for controversial remarks; seeks dialogue with PNA

Former congresswoman and senatorial candidate (NP-Team PNoy) Cynthia Villar wrote a letter of apology to the Philippine Nurses Association in light of recent remarks during a senatorial media forum that have earned the ire of nurses here and abroad.
 Villar said that lack of time and the complexity of the issue concerning a closure order issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) several years ago prevented her from answering the question in a clear and concise manner. In her letter addressed to the PNA Governing Board, its officers and staff, Villar wrote:
“I truly am sorry for having offended the feelings of your members. It was never my intention to belittle anyone, least of all, the valiant members of the nursing profession.”
 The controversy arose when noted economist and broadcaster Winnie Monsod asked former congresswoman Villar about her alleged intervention in favor of nursing school owners that resulted in the non-closure of substandard nursing schools way back in 2005. Villar was unable to complete her answer because the alloted time of 1 minute for the first answer and another thirty seconds for a follow-up reply quickly lapsed.
 “What I was trying to say during that media forum was that nursing students affected by a CHED closure order several years ago deserved concrete and better career and academic options other than just an abrupt closure of the institutions that they were currently enrolled in,” the head of the Villar Foundation said.
 She added that: “At that time, I was part of a legislative oversight committee that had to intervene to make sure that the welfare and rights of these students, their parents, and teachers were given sufficient thought and consideration by CHED and the school owners.”
 Villar also noted that as early as May 2012, she was already advocating for a ladderized system of curriculum that would give academic credits and the appropriate skills certificates for nursing students who due to financial constraints were unable to complete their nursing degree and pass the board examinations. The candidate also known as “Misis Hanepbuhay” underscored her commitment to fight for better wages for government nurses based on a law passed in 2002 that was principally authored by her husband, Senator Manny Villar.
 “During the First Davao del Sur Congress of the Philippine Nurses Association- Davao del Sur Chapter in November of last year, I spoke in favor of the immediate implementation of Republic Act No. 9173 also known as the Nursing Act of 2002 that increases the minimum salary of government nurses to around Php 24,000 or Salary Grade 15 instead of the present Php 18,000 equivalent to only Salary Grade 11.”
 “That this law passed way back in 2002 remains unimplemented speaks volumes about the sad plight of your sector.
 No wonder so many Filipino nurses are compelled to leave the country for economic reasons,” Villar said in her letter to the PNA, adding that prices of basic commodities have risen sharply since 2002 thus making the Php24,000 minimum wage threshhold obsolete.
 The lady legislator also appealed to Filipino nurses and nursing students not to judge her based on a comment made under extreme time pressure. “Mahirap po talagang pagkasyahin sa loob ng isang minuto at kalahati ang lahat ng gusto kong sabihin tungkol sa mga naging problema ng mga mag-aaral ng nursing noon at hanggang ngayon. Napakalaki ng aking paghanga sa mga nars, saan man sila naglilingkod kaya’t nalulungkot ako dahil nagkulang ang aking pagpapaliwanag.” (“It was really difficult to say everything I wanted to say about the problems confronting our nurses then and now within one minute and thirty seconds. I have such a high regard for nurses wherever they are assigned to serve, which is why I felt sad for not being able to offer a more comprehensive and complete answer.”)
 At the end of her two-page letter, the former congresswoman from Las Pinas City said that the controversy arising from her remarks made her even more zealous about promoting the rights and welfare of Filipino nurses. “I sincerely want to learn more about the challenges confronting Filipino nurses here and abroad. Perhaps, at the appropriate time and with the help of the PNA and your chapters worldwide, we could start a dialogue on a common agenda to help our nurses and improve services and facilities for public health care,” she said.

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