MANILA - Team PNoy senatorial candidate Cynthia Villar on Monday apologized to the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) for her recent remarks in a forum that earned the ire of nurses.
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.
She told Monsod then that nurses did not need to finish their degree since they only wanted to become room nurses or caretakers.
“Yung sinasabi po namin sa kanila na actually hindi naman kailangan ang nurse ay matapos ng BSN [BS Nursing], kasi itong ating mga nurses ay gusto lang nila maging room nurse, o sa Amerika o sa other countries, ay mag-aalaga lang sila. Hindi naman kailangan na ganoon sila kagaling,” she had said.
Villar’s comment was immediately criticized in social networking sites over the weekend.
Villar said the 1-minute time limit and the complexity of the issue concerning the closure order from Commission on Higher Education (CHED) several years ago prevented her from answering Monsod’s question in a clear and concise manner.
"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," she said.
She 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."
Villar was part of a legislative oversight committee that asked CHED not to close the nursing schools just for lack of tertiary hospitals where the nurses could train.
The senatorial bet said the panel asked CHED to defer the closure since the nurses could study until their third year before they needed to work in a tertiary hospital to gain experience.
Villar 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.
She said her own husband, Sen. Manny Villar, authored a law for better wages for government nurses in 2002.
"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 P24,000 or Salary Grade 15 instead of the present P18,000 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.
Villar said that the controversy arising from her remarks made her even more zealous about promoting the rights and welfare of Filipino nurses.