(Updated 11:34 a.m., March 5) - Administration senatorial candidate Cynthia Villar has apologized to nurses for her controversial statement on national TV two weeks ago In a statement Monday, Villar, a former Las Piñas representative, said she has written a letter of apology to the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) in light of her remarks during the senatorial debate on GMA News TV's "Pagsubok ng mga Kandidato." “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," she said. Here is an excerpt of the transcript of the exchange between Villar and one of the debate's hosts, Professor Winnie Monsod: WINNIE MONSOD: Can you reconcile itong seeming disconnect between your desire to help the poor at pagpanig niyo sa mga may-ari ng education institution na gustong isara ng technical nursing committee at ng CHED (Commission on Higher Education)? CYNTHIA VILLAR: Hindi naman ganoon ang istorya noon. Ang nangyari noon ay binigyan nila ng permit 'yung mga schools to open ng CHED. Tapos gusto nilang ipasara. Nag-invest na 'yung mga may-ari ng schools sa kanilang facilities. And then, sinasabi nila na kaya nila gusto ipasara dahil walang tertiary hospital where they can train. Ang sabi naman namin noon na hindi kami kumukontra sa CHED. Ang sinasabi namin kasi, tiningnan namin 'yung syllabus at courses na kukunin nila at nakita namin na after lang sa third year kailangan nila 'yung tertiary hospital so ni-request namin na hindi isara 'yung pre-nursing schools. WINNIE MONSOD: Bakit bumaba pa ang nurses na na-employ sa abroad, kasi hindi sila qualified? Bakit nag-resign ang Technical Education Committee after 7 months in office? CYNTHIA VILLAR: ‘Yung pagre-resign po ni [Fr. Rolando V. De la Rosa] is a personal quarrel with the owner of the school. Medyo personal po iyon. Pero 'yung amin po, 'yung sinasabi po namin sa kanila na actually hindi naman kailangan ang nurse ay matapos ng BSN (Bachelor of Science in 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. On Monday, Villar explained that "lack of time and the complexity of the issue" concerning a closure order issued by the CHED years ago prevented her from answering the question "in a clear and concise manner." “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," she said.
She said she was unable to complete her answer because the one-minute time limit for the first answer and the thirty seconds allotted 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,” she said. Villar, wife of Sen. Manuel Villar, said that during that time, she was part of a legislative oversight committee that "had to intervene" to make sure that the welfare and rights of nursing students, their parents, and teachers were given "sufficient thought and consideration" by CHED and the school owners.
She also said that she has been 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." Villar also said that she has always been pushing for higher wages for government nurses, specifically the implementation of Republic Act No. 9173 also known as the Nursing Act of 2002, which increases the minimum salary of government nurses to around P24,000.
“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. PNA to release statement GMA News Online sought the PNA for comment but was told to wait for their official announcement to be released Tuesday afternoon.
The association's officers and other members are meeting on Tuesday about the matter. — With a report from Andrei Medina/KBK/KG, GMA News