Founder’s Profile

Respect for the dignity of the nursing profession. One profession . One voice.

– Rep. Leah S. Paquiz

It is impossible to respect, value and admire great leadership if you cannot identify what makes a leader great. While the tide is changing and more women are being elevated into leadership roles, there is still much work to be done.

One late afternoon, I was at Jose Rizal University to witness the Oath taking ceremony of the new Registered Nurses. Then came to my attention a very simple yet elegant  woman waiting candidly and  patiently for her turn to march along the isle while students and nurses are taking their turn to march. Her positive demeanor and charming personality, would not escape attention nor be left unnoticed. As Dr. Leah Primitiva G. Samaco-Paquiz  delivered her speech, which addressed the nurses and student nurses, I heard a very powerful voice and I quote;

“We have problems in our profession. We lost the respect to the dignity of the nursing profession, because we allowed this to happen. We are burdened with inadequate health budget, with the demoralizing effects of poor health care delivery system secondary to understaffing and poor salary and working conditions.

We, who have been quiet,apathetic,and passive will ultimately speak. We, who are weak, will pull strength from each other.

Let us act and have an Expedition in Faith that we can change nursing exploitation with A Spirit Forged in Steel towards working in the right place, at the right time, under the right working conditions, doing the right work, with the right compensation, working excellently to finish strong in order to deliver safe and quality health care for Filipinos.

Tamang Trabaho, Tamang Suweldo, Tamang Solusyon para sa Kalusugan ng Bayan.”

——-

Dr. Paquiz, the  Ang Nars Partylist Representative delivered her  first Privilege Speech in Congress with the title “The Filipino Nurses, The Care Specialists, The Silent Heroes Of The Health Care System”.

She asked, ” Who renders 24/7 care services? Who does all the necessary procedures for health care?  Who are called when patients ask for assistance? Who coordinates the care services in hospitals? No one but the nurses!-

Where are the public health nurses who used to make home visits to families and gave health lectures to mothers on healthy family living and care of the very young, young, adolescents, adults, and elderly as well as pregnant and post-natal mothers? When you really come to think of it, it is really caring from womb to tomb. CAN WE IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT NURSES? “ asks Dr. Paquiz.

This visionary nurse leader is known as Rep. Leah Primitiva G. Samaco-Paquiz, (Nars Leah)  the Founding President of Ang Nars, an advocate organization which later progressed into ANG NARS Partylist  that ensures and promotes the social, economic, political and professional rights of Nurses.

She was the 30th recipient of the Anastasia Giron Tupas Award given last October 23, 2012. This award is given annually to remind Flipino nurses of their distinction as creative and inspiring leaders who are brave, compassionate and skillful in their pursuit to alleviate the suffering  of people around them.

Likewise, she was awarded as the Most Outstanding Professional given by the Philippine Regulation Commission last June 18, 2014 and given the most recent recognition from the National Philippine Government of Nurses, the 2015 ANNIE SAND Awardee.

THE BEGINNING

Looking back, Nars Leah was born in Odiongan, Romblon and grew up in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.

HER REFLECTIONS

My father, a disciplinarian, was the one who taught me integrity, leadership and the value of work. My mother, taught me the love of Jesus and fostered my relationship with Him as my Savior and Lord, and developed in me the value of love of God, love of country and love of people.”  

She gives praise to God for her loving parents, Florencio M. Samaco, a businessman and Dorcas E. Goco, a chief nurse , who nurtured  her the value of  love, leadership, integrity, discilpine, hard work  and responsibility

She was blessed with a husband, Engineer Samuel D. Paquiz, her mentor in love for country and Filipinos, encouraged her to study higher learnings and prodded her to help the government  that brought her to where she is now.

The apple of her eyes are her four children, Titus, a businessman, Haya, a doctor, Faye, a lawyer and Paul a businessman who is now in heaven.  She is blessed with  five grandchilren, Alexine, Jolo, Ram, Miguel and Agatha.

She is the eldest of five children.  When she was one year old, she she fought for her life. Knowing  she was dying, her parents, decided to bring her home to Calapan, from Romblon. Her parents and Ninong Peping take turns carrying her, while she drank all the liquids given her. When the boat anchored  in  Calapan Or. Mindoro, she was already bubbly alive and playing.  She fought and  survived through the loving mercies of God.

At three years old, she had her first lesson in “CHALLENGE” while in a hospital Christmas Party where her mother was the chief nurse. She was to sing a song telling the story of a mouse and to recite a poem about Christmas. To her father’s surprise, she sang the poem and recited the song, to the relief and pride of her father, she finished both the poem and the song successfully.

Her elementary and high school education were in public schools and enjoyed her years as a consistent honor student, a student leader, a declaimer, and a writer (news editor of the school newspaper). She represented her school in press conferences, won competitions as the pianist of her chorale group and graduated in the Top Ten of the class. Moreover, she taught Sunday School, where she went house to house teaching people about Jesus, giving them health teachings , and equipping parents to tend and care for their children. In the field of pageantry, she had been chosen as Miss Sophomore, Miss Alma Mater  and after that was crowned as Mutya ng Calapan.

She loved NURSING at a very young age.  She said, “When my mom would attend home deliveries, she brought me along with her to assist in cutting the string she used to tie the umbilical cord of the baby. And that was where my training to serve begun”.

Nars Leah’s exposure to the communities witnessing their health needs had inspired her to take up nursing. In 1973, she graduated from Trinity College now known as Trinity University of Asia – College of Nursing. In her education and training as a nurse, she loved caring for the poor patients in the hospitals and communities in Bulacan, where she was assigned for her first formal exposure as a registered nurse.

In 1985, she graduated with  her Master of Public Health Degree, University of the Philippines Manila.  She delved in caring for Tuberculosis (TB) patients in Maragondon, Cavite. It was there that she had witnessed reality of inequities in health care. This experience made her aware and conscious of the many poor people who are deprived, underserved, and need her care as a nurse.

In 1994, she taught  high school students and served as Principal of the Immanuel Lutheran School in Tugatog, Malabon. According to one of the teachers at Immanuel Lutheran School “she was very firm and led with  an iron hand in her governance. She made improvements by creating reforms and developed policies.” 

At the same time, she was the founding board member of the Center for the Prevention and treatment of Child Sexual Abuse and later became its President.  They helped sexually abused children and young offenders and even developed modules to be used by the Department of Education.

At the same time, in the evenings, she was pursuing her Doctor of Education Degree in the University of the Philippines, Diliman. In 1997, she fulfilled her long time goal of taking up and finishing her Master of Arts in Nursing Degree in the Trinity University of Asia. Professionally, she is both a Registered Nurse and a Registered Teacher while being a choir director and a pianist at the same time

Her caring skills were honed when she served as a Staff Nurse in Oriental Mindoro Provincial Hospital. As a staff , she used to work without days off and never complained because she loved to do what she she was doing. Even as a neophyte nurse, she has shown her concern for her co-nurses. She substituted for married staff nurses in  their posts so that they can celebrate with their families. She took care of sixty patients per shift. She became a sharp shooter in giving intravenous injections to patients with tuberculosis. She loved her patients most specially, doing daily cares and duties not minding the hazards she was exposed to in caring for their illnesses.

She  also took care of the poor Filipino students as a Public Health Nurse in the Division of City Schools, Quezon City. She cared for their wounds, scabies, lies and tried to encourage them through health teachings by promoting health and preventing illness.

EXPERIENCES AS A NURSE ABROAD

It was when she worked as a Staff Nurse in Goldwater Medical Center in Roosevelt Island, New York City that the idea of “Tamang Trabaho, Tamang Sweldo” daunted on her. She recognized the considerable difference in the professional treatment of nurses abroad and in the Philippines.

Here started her passion to raise awareness that nurses,  the “Care Specialists”, must be respected and accorded the dignity whom should be given “Decent Pay and Decent Jobs”.

EXPERIENCES AS A DEAN

She served as Dean of the Trinity University of Asia – College of Nursing armed with passion for excellence. During her stewardship, the university produced eleven (11) 100% national passing rates in the Nurse Licensure Examinations. She continuously strove and monitored “Learning with Discipline” in order to produce excellent nurses with caring hearts and informed minds. As Dean, she fought for and won the retention of the name “St. Luke’s College of Nursing” under the Trinity College of Quezon City. It was also under her leadership that the St. Luke’s College of Nursing was constructed and transferred to a new building.

In order to help other health workers, she chaired the Bachelor of Science in Community Health for midwives who had a two year course were able to finish a bachelors degree.

She was responsible for the development of Trinity College-Sagada so that the natives will have college education in their own place.

Her experience as a Dean have also equipped and empowered her with the capability to establish the College of Nursing in Adamson University, where she became the Founding Dean in 2003 as well as in STI College in Makati. Furthermore, she represented the country in various health conferences abroad such as the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Israel, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and China.

EXPERIENCES AS  PNA PRESIDENT

The Challenge

In 2006, the Nurse Licensure Examination leakage problem tainted the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) leadership. Nursing leaders were divided on the issue in so far as to whether or not the applicants should retake the licensure exam. The issue was even elevated and deliberated at the Senate where the PNA leadership was questioned. This had caused many PNA officers and committee chairpersons to resign. Thus, VP for Finance Marilyn Yap took the Presidency and Dr. Paquiz  who was then the treasurer, was elevated to VP for Finance.

This was  when Dr. Paquiz  real challenges started. This issue have positioned her in a bumpy crossroad; whether or not to continue with the October 2006 PNA convention when many nursing leaders said that should not be pursued anymore. At the same time there are many nurses who have already paid for the convention and many more were paying . This observation strongly convinced her to pursue the convention. But because of her known fighting spirit, she decided not to let that one issue taint and affect the institution that is PNA; thus, being the chair of the committee for that convention, she pushed through with it nonetheless achieving success in the end.

Subsequently another challenge confronted her when January 2007 came with the coming PNA election of officers. At that time, She was about to become member of  the Board of Nursing (BON) but rescinded her application and instead, ran for election in the PNA presidency. Outgoing BON Chairperson Rosero even called her and asked why she rescinded the application. But, she was steadfast in her decision. After that heightened awareness on the need to serve the PNA, she decided that  PNA is a very important priority  and  did not want the organization and its leadership to be destroyed and wasted.  She was successfully elected the 30th PNA President in 2007 and was re-elected in 2008. There was a smooth turn-over of duties and responsibilities from outgoing to newly-elected and inducted national officials  of the organization.

During my interview with her she said and I quote; “When I was elected as President of the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA), I have seen and experienced the exploitation of nurses and the precarious work conditions that they are placed in. It is through my experience as President of the PNA that I recognized the need for a body to protect and promote the rights of nurses and health workers, such as Barangay Health Workers and Barangay Nutrition Scholars, who are in the forefront of public health care system”.

It was during her presidency of PNA when the organization was introduced to social dialogue as a tool, an approach, an orientation to empower nurses through unionism. What used to be a concept that nurses were told to do away with, unionism was not only introduced but also aimed at organizing Tripartism as an avenue to address the issues and concerns of nurses.  What she planted is now the direction being pursued by PNA, but after she helped found a union of nurses, KATIPUNARS-PSLINK.

During this time the image of the nursing profession appeared  to be clouded with a number of controversies. She had fought to strengthen the image of the profession through appearances and interviews on television programs, radio and press media. Specifically, There was WINROX advertisement wherein models in short and revealing white nursing uniforms with caps were depicted as racy and sensual. The wearing of the nursing uniform and cap during the Eat Bulaga segment was considered inappropriate. Clearly, it violated the Code of Ethics for nurses as well as their right to be respected. She fought against it because she believed that the advertisement was vainly projecting nurses in a bad light when in fact, nursing, as a profession is honorable and must be regarded with respect.

For the same reason, she also took a stand against ill and derogatory comments regarding Filipino health workers  in the American TV Series, “Desperate Housewives”.

Moreover, while holding office at the PNA, she worked on the development of the following manuals namely, “Finalization of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the PNA By-Laws”,  “Review and Updating of the Administrative Manual/Financial Manual” and “Review and Finalization of the STANDARDS OF NURSING PRACTICE” which included increasing of the  salaries of PNA staff, based an actuarial study.

She also labored to produce a recipient for the Anastacia Giron Tupas Award, the highest award given by the PNA in recognition of the legacy of Anastacia Giron Tupas. She believes that it is through recognition of the nurses that nurses would also continue to strive hard and make a difference. For so many years, the PNA was unable to produce a recipient. But because of her determination, she continuously called and reminded all the Governors of each region to have at least one nominee. Again, her perseverance resulted to presenting the lists of candidates. This became another milestone in her leadership for it sought to explore the personality traits, characteristic of successful women leaders.

Aware of the nurses salary being underpaid in the Philippines , she has continuously fostered the linkage between the Senate and the House of Representatives for the full implementation of Republic Act (RA) 9173 entitled, “Philippine Nursing Act of 2002” and RA 7305 entitled, “Magna Carta of Public Health Workers”.

Then came her concern for the nurses who goes abroad to work. As a former OFW herself , she has learned the pros and cons of being an OFW. OFWs may seem to earn a lot of money but at the same time the cost of living is so high and  one has to cope with working away from his/her family and therefore  face difficult conditions while dealing with necessities, dress code, climate differences, currency exchange, lifestyle and religious beliefs. She authored a module about keeping safe and staying healthy, initiated the provision of short courses for nurses for their professional growth and development, such as Pre-Orientation Employment Seminar (PEOS), Needle Stick Injury, Gerontology, Telemetry, and US intermediate IV & V. Finally, she represented the PNA in the government delegation that went to California for a Technical Working Group with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) that successfully brought the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) in the Philippines.

Licensed Practical Nursing

Another problem came when the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) thought of introducing another short course in nursing which is the Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) curriculum. The LPN can be completed within 12 to 18 months while the regular course of nursing stated in  the RA 9173: Nursing Act of 2002 mandates 4 (four) years to be completed. She has fought against and successfully stopped the proliferation of schools of Licensed Practical Nursing.  She explained, “I  went to talk to the CHED Commissioner carrying my letter for the higher education to stop  the implementation of LPN from among the 200 schools. ”, said  Nars Leah.

She had enumerated the reasons why CHED should stop the shortened course: First, there was no need for practical hospital nurses because of the many nursing graduates today. Secondly, LPN as a course  is not accepted for hiring of nurses in the  hospitals abroad. Third, there is no board exam for practical nursing hence, no professional license that will necessitate and ensure a high quality of service in the hospitals.

She even went to some of the colleges concerned to raise awareness on this issue  and to stir their conscience that even though Filipinos are now living in poverty, this is not the immediate solution to address it. Simultaneously, she went on TV programs to talk on the issue to help enlighten the minds of the parents about LPN and its negative demand abroad. More importantly she had clarified the fact that their children who might be taking LPN will never graduate as nurses because LPN and Nursing as a collegiate course are not the same.

JPEPA

She advocated for the dignity and professional integrity of the Filipino nurse against JPEPA (Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement) because Flipino nurses who would be hired would only suffer the same consequences as those sent to New Zealand. The unnecessary and stringent requirements of JPEPA will effectively delegate the Filipino nurses as contractuals, second class trainees in Japan , with a status inferior to that of Japanese nurses.  They will just be given allowances and if they will not pass the Japanese Nurse Licensure examination in three (3) years, Filipino nurses will be sent back  to the Philippines.

The Philippine government must uphold the pride, dignity and professionalism of Filipino nurses. From this stand point,  she pooled all the nursing leaders in the country to reject JPEPA. She believed that the bilateral agreement short changes the professional qualifications of Filipino nurses and exposes the same to potential abuse and discrimination if they seek Japanese employment under its bilateral channel. Even Japanese nurses are aware that reforms are needed to better the local Japanese nurses condition! She said, “They should institute reforms to improve the working conditions of local Japanese nurses first before they can ensure that Filipino nurses will have favorable working conditions in Japan.”

Of Dr. Paquiz, Governor Edward Malzan of NCR Zone 3 have said that She is a very assertive woman. What she believes in, she persists [on]. One thing very good [about her]  is that she shares her vision! It was not only for her  but other nurses could share her vision thats why many people including non-nurses have supported her call.”  Dr. Paquiz  purported that “nurses should  see the value of staying in the Philippines to serve the Filipinos (and given professional accord and protection by the government) than being exported and discriminated without clear career path and security”, “A nurse is Not a Commodity, he or she is a Human Being who deserves respect![1] she further adds.

Up to now, Dr. Paquiz  has  a continuous advocacy against JPEPA where she stands on her conviction and urges the Philippine Overseas.

Employment  Administration (POEA) to make  Filipino nurses learn the Nihongo language in the Philippines, take the Japanese Nurse Licensure examination here so that when they pass the said exam,  they can work in Japan as regular nurses equal to the local Japanese nurses, having the same salaries and benefits.

Strong voice facing Sentosa Recruitment Agency

The Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) thru her stewardship strongly denounced the prejudiced treatment and excessively unfair situation faced by 26 Filipino nurses who were recruited from the Philippines by the Sentosa Recruitment Agency, a single proprietorship run by Francis Luyun.

Sentosa works in partnership with Ben Philipson, a Danish national and a permanent resident of the US who owns and manages 14 nursing facilities in New York. Upon arrival in the United States, it was already quite evident that the 26 Filipino nurses were short changed when they were made to work for different nursing facilities other than those provided for in their contracts.

[2]She influenced everyone with involvement on this matter,  from the Philippines and New York, USA. “I have continuously communicated with the PNA New York Chapter to be steadfast in pursuit of this case and  to throw full support to the Filipino nurses who continue to face the ordeal of fighting an apparently powerful conglomerate in New York whose tentacles even reached our own government machinery.” The nurses are waging a battle not only for themselves but for the entire Philippine nursing sector. “We must join hands with other sectors to be heard and we are appealing to  legislators and other government officials to stand by us”,  she stressed.

When the cases against the Sentosa nurses were dropped, it was a triumph for the entire nursing profession not only in the Philippines but all over the world.

ANG NARS

Dean Claire Curato of the Arellano University described Dr. Paquiz  as a dedicated individual, relentlessly fighting for everything that matters to the health of the Filipino: her principles and the nurses.  Her vision that the only way to uplift the plight of the nurses is only thru a strong voice and  ANG NARS can have it in the legislative branch. Fortunately, on June 5, 2013, after two attempts to qualify in the comelec, ANG NARS Party-list was proclaimed to have won one seat in the 16th Congress, under Dr. Paquiz  representation, notably with minimal budget to spend for her campaign.

BRIEF BACKGROUND

During Dr. Paquiz two-term Presidency of the Philippine Nurses Association in 2007 and 2008, she has seen and  recognized the real problems in the nursing profession, especially the exploitation and precarious work conditions experienced by Filipino nurses. Because of this,  after her second term as PNA president ended in 2008, she organized and established ANG NARS in 2009, as an organization that will protect and promote the rights of nurses, aimed to empower nurses, other health workers and health stake holders to stand up for their rights and to uplift the dignity of their profession. She upheld this advocacy through the mantra – “Karapatan, Kalusugan, Kabuhayan” for health workers and the Filipino people. ANG NARS believes that nurses and health workers are empowered and enabled to fulfill their responsibility to provide quality healthcare services to the Filipinos when they have “Tamang Trabaho and Tamang Sweldo”. “Equal Pay for Equal Work and Work of Equal Value” Through ANG NARS, and guided by the love of God, country and people, she continuously enjoins  nurses to RISE ABOVE their present exploitative situations by asserting their rights. She encourage them to use their title “Nars”, hang their shingles, open their own clinics and join the Nurses’ Union.  Above all these, as she has stipulated, service always comes first.

For her, a leader influences and leadership is influencing. Leadership is about influencing others to see and understand your view of things and to mobilize them towards the right responses and actions. Thus, to be an effective leader, it is important to empower others to do the right thing, and to do it the right way. She identified her form of leadership as “Servant Leadership” and define it as stewardship. Simply put, it means being a servant first, and putting the desire to serve above all things, especially putting it above the desire for power and material possessions. Experience, wisdom and humility are important to the servant leader because these are needed to facilitate the growth and development of the leader’s group and members.

Nars  Rico Gracia, former OFW and ANG NARS partylist organizer believed that Nars Leah is an excellent leader. He further asserted that “she has the heart for nurses from the time that we have met. She wants to change the present conditions of nurses  as false volunteers, false trainees, job orders and contractuals. She wants SG 15 to be implemented as salaries for nurses. I support her advocacies  because I believe she is  consistent with her vision and commitment.”

She decided to pursue leadership even when it became a burden being that the state of health and wellness is not achieved by the people secondary to inequity and inefficacy of the health care delivery system (caused by inadequate health human resource, lack in health promotion and education, etc.). This has always been what her goal and vision are committed and devoted to. It is her conviction that our people must have access and must be able to have health and wellness because health is their constitutional right. Thus, significantly, a leader has vision, and is able to motivate people to share and own it. Leadership means building and enabling an effective team towards the achievement of a vision. In her case, she envisions that in order to promote health and prevent illness, the country’s healthcare system should have adequate health workers with decent jobs and decent salaries. Thus, she led ANG NARS to continuously advocate for the Filipino health workers’ fundamental rights and decent pay and  conditions. She has recognized the role that she can play, to move for change, towards the achievement of “Kalusugan Para sa Bayan through an empowered health workforce” which is her  goal and advocacy in ANG NARS together with “Tamang Trabaho. Tamang Sweldo. Tamang Solusyon,” meaning  “Equal Pay for Equal Work and Work of Equal Value”.

So, advocacies were made to open the minds of Filipino nurses to the NURSE EXPLOITATION  by mobilization, doing mass actions.  making position papers, media appearances, lobbying in Congress,  DOH  and DBM and dialogues with stakeholders.

The efforts to lift the image of the FILIPINO NURSE, gain their respect and dignity were futile. and was never heard. The nurses are frustrated. They want to live happily with a decent wage that they could not attain. Because of these conditions, they will ask personally and in conventions why nurses voice is not heard, why nurses do not have representation in  Congress.

Another question is, when will it involve in politics?

This opened her mind that all efforts will not materialize not until nurses have a VOICE REPRESENTATION in Congress. Then she  remembered her husband, Bob telling her, “you have worked long in the private instituions, now, the government needs you. It is high time for you to help in the running of our country”.

So in November 2008, ANG NARS (former Nars Malasakit) applied to be registered in the Securities and Exchange Commission and was given Registration No. CN200900208 in January 2009.

The goal of having a united and bold voice in Congress to champion nurses’ rights and welfare is the “reason for being” of  ANG NARS. For too long, nurses relied on others to represent their  interests in Congress.  It is time to make their own destiny. To reach this goal, ANG NARS realized that nurses from all sectors must have a  stake in the process.

In 2010, ANG NARS applied as a party-list in Congress and was denied. In 2013, it applied again and was again denied. Not to be discouraged, she prayed. She met with two COMELEC Commisioners, Tagle and Suyyof and passionately discuss with the them the present exploitative conditions of nurses.

And in 13 December 2012, ANG NARS had been registered and accredited by the Commission on Election (COMELEC) as a sectoral party representing the exploited, oppressed, neglected and abused nurses and health workers of our society. It seeks to uplift the economic, social, professional, and political welfare of the marginalized nursing and healthworkers sector in order to recreate them as competent partners of the government towards strong and healthy nation-building. It is the vision of ANG NARS Party-list to be the vanguard for the rights of nurses, health workers, and health stakeholders towards sustained policy actions; with the mission to stand as one solid voice for nurses, health workers, and health stakeholders to be heard and to empower them in protecting their rights and dignity in order to deliver safe and quality health care for the Filipinos. On 13 May 2013, ANG NARS Party-list participated in the Party-list System of Representation in the Elections and was proclaimed winner on 05 June 2013 by the National Board of Canvassers, COMELEC. Thus, on 25 June 2013, as ANG NARS Party-list first nominee, she took an Oath of Office and thereafter, assumed public office as elected representative of ANG NARS.

This is a great success for her, as a nursing leader and as a servant leader. Not all things are gold in the same way that not all leaders have very smooth sailing delivery because the roads to reforms are not without hurdles and barriers.

In one of the interviews with one of the Governors who worked with her during that time it was said that Nars Leah is a woman of passion. She works hard for her vision and will do the best she can to achieve it. She is very strong on what she knows and what she believes in. She was able to convince PNA to change the name of the PNA to Pambansang Samahan ng mga Nars sa Pilipinas. According to her, “We are Filipinos, that is why the name of our organization should be in Filipino language”.  It went thru a massive and fiery debate in the Board of Governors. At the end,  she was able to convince the board for the change of name.” She is very consistent, persistent and this character had brought her eventually in Congress. She focuses on her vision, she learned the importance of being firm and steadfast in her character and being strong in the face of adversities.

EXPERIENCES IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

According to the former Board of Nursing , Present President of  Philippine Nursing Roadmap Coalition (PPNRC), Hon. Betty Merrit expressed, “Nars Leah is a woman with a vision and a woman of integrity. When she speaks, she walks her talks. She has believed that one must have a political voice to be heard and she made it. She did not avail of her allocated PDAF from the beginning of her stint since it runs contrary to her constitution.” As elected representative of ANG NARS, to fight for the health workforce and the health of the Filipino people, she had a deeper understanding of how legislation is utilized for social change. In addition to this, through her participation in it, she was able to understand the workings of a political environment and the importance of the participation of civil society in order to enact laws that are relative and responsive to the needs of the constituents. In accordance with the thrusts and advocacies of ANG NARS, she is committed the following VISION MISSION, ADVOCACIES &  AGENDA:

VISION:

ANG NARS will be a strong united organization of nurses & health workers that will relentlessly pursue advocacies in decent employment , social protection, and health promotion through collaboration with  governmental institutions and with non-governmental organizations towards responsible and responsive achievement of sustainable health for all.

By 2022,  ANG NARS envisions equal opportunity in the socio- economic and political rights  of the marginalized nurses  and  health workers   towards progressive and accountable  partner of the government  into strong and healthy nation-building.

MISSION: ;ANG NARS will stand as one solid voice for nurses and health workers to be heard and empower them to protect their rights and dignity to deliver safe and quality health care for Filipinos.

  1. CORE VALUES
    – LOVE
    – INTEGRITY
    – FORTITUDE
    – EXCELLENCE
  2. ADVOCACY (KARAPATAN, KALUSUGAN, KABUHAYAN) and 8 POINT AGENDA

    KARAPATAN
    1- Uphold the Dignity of Nurses and Health Workers, in general
    2- Accessible and Quality Education
    3- Good Governance
    KALUSUGAN
    4- Reclaim Public Health Services
    5- Care for the Mother, Children , Elderly & the vulnerable
    6- Nursing the Environment
    KABUHAYAN
    7- Decent Employment and Social protection
    8- OFW Ethical Recruitment and Migration
  3. Activities (ANG NARS ACRONYM) ANG NARS Nurtures our fellowmen
    Health Teaching
    Motivational Talks
    Coaching
    Partnerships & Linkages

    ANG NARS Asserts our Rights
    Capacity Building & Social Dialogue
    Legal Advice on health concerns
    Legal Assistance on labor issues
    Counseling and Empowerment

    ANG NARS Reforms our systems
    Policy Communication
    Orientations & Speakership
    Policy Consultation
    Policy Development
    Policy Implementation, Monitoring , and Evaluation

    ANG NARS Serves God, country and fellow Filipinos
    Health Mission
    Training & Livelihood
    Accident / Death Assistance

In her two years in Congress, she filed 14 House Bills (HB), 6 House resolutions and passed 4 House Bill signed into law which includes the graphic health warning, Iskolar ng bayan, Open distance learning Act and the Ladderized Education Act.  Included in the HB is the most controversial  HB 151 which is now on its 3rd reading in the House of Senate, entitled “Philippine Nursing Act  of 2002 ,Comprehensive Nursing Law” which provides for Salary Grade 15 as minimum base pay for nurses employed in both government and private institutions, mandates the one is to twelve (1:12) nurse to patient ratio, and mandates the provision of a nurse for every barangay, school, and establishment. In addition, one of the highlights of the bill is the stringent penal provisions for any institution or individual that violates the law and exploits the nursing profession, through acts such as getting nurses as volunteers, contractual, and job orders. While this HB is in progress, she filed an HR directing the house of Committee on Civil Service Commission (CSC) and Philippine Regulation Commission (PRC) to conduct an inquiry , evaluation and assessment in the exercise of the oversight function in the implementation of RA 9173. If nursing administrators say that the newly Registered Nurses lack competencies and skills therefore justifying the practice of false training and false volunteerism, what then is wrong with the nursing education? Is the nursing law inadequate in addressing the problems with the nursing service and its education. Why is Salary Grade 15 not being implemented? She has constantly pushed for the concerned government agencies (DOH, DOLE, DILG) and LGU’s to fill up the 190,000 unfilled government positions and to comply with the nurse to patient ratio of 1:12, pursuant to DOH standard of practice.

Last January 8, 2015, ANG NARS Party-list, together with thirteen (13) organizations namely Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Philippine Nurses Association (PNA), National League of Philippine Government Nurses (NLPGN), Philippine Nurses Environmental Organization (PNEO), Mother and Child Nurses Association of the Philippines (MCNAP), Operating Room Nurses Association of the Philippines (ORNAP), Renal Nurses Association of the Philippines (RENAP), Occupational Health Nurses Association of the Philippines (OHNAP), Philippine Nursing Informatics Association (PNIA),  Public Services International (PSI), Alliance of Filipino Workers (AFW), Philippine Government Employees Association (PGEA), and Confederation of Independent Unions (CIU) marched from PNA’s Headquarters to the Supreme Court in support of the filing of the Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus to settle, once and for all, the legal issues that hampers the implementation of SG 15.

A story of “Kuya Teng” who is a volunteer Baranagay Heatlh Worker (BHW), with 8 work hours a day, 5 days a week while being  on-call most of the time is working like a regular government employee yet he only receives an allowance of 1,000 pesos without benefits, nor security of tenure. Ang Nars helped him file a petition at the Sangguniang Panglunsod. Unfortunately, it was dismissed at the local level. Ang Nars paved a way for the BHW’s to appeal at the office of the President. From this event, Nars Leah filed HB 3925, a bill instituting reforms in Community Health Workers (CHWs) and Services. It aims to upgrade the CHWs (Barangay Health Workers, Barangay Nutrition Scholar, Population Services Workers, and Sanitaria Workers) from volunteers to government employees that will receive Salary Grade 1 and the existing statutory benefits and the corresponding benefits under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.

She filed two (2) House Resolutions directing the concerned committees to investigate, in aid of legislation, the privatization of government hospitals and the effects of devolution to the present health care delivery system. In her two years as legislator, she have taken an active role in the enactment of five (5) Republic Acts, one of which she is the principal author . This is RA 10643, entitled the Graphic Health Warnings Act, which aims to discourage smoking through the printing of graphic health warnings on tobacco products. More importantly, taking part in the 16th Congress, she was able to share the advocacy on health in a wider medium. Thus, despite her busy schedule, she went around the country, and even abroad (such as in Hong Kong and Al Khobar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), to conduct constituency work and legislative consultations with nurses and health workers, as well as to keep herself abreast with their current plight and conditions. Before, there was no sectoral representative in Congress who is solely focused on health policies. With ANG NARS, she is able to fill that niche and become the much needed voice of nurses, health workers, and health advocates in Congress.

“REGISTERED NURSES AT YOUR CERVIX” ! Nursing birthing clinics is now within the reach of every nurse, every community, every mother, infant and child. Nars Leah was instrumental in the DOH decision to amend Annex C of Administrative Order No. 2012-0012. The Department of Health (DOH) has included registered nurses among the healthcare providers who can own, manage, and operate birthing clinics and facilities.

Her high esteemed contribution to Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) .

She is the key influencer as PCMC truly became a premier hospital for Filipino Children. After the case in Congress, PCMC now holds the title to their land. Their flight to fight for this right has paved its way so they can continue to serve the filipino children.

In all of her undertakings for the movement and change that are needed, most of her time is devoted to making position papers, joining mobilizations , organizing press conferences and movements, convening and writing letters to congressmen and senators, going on media interviews, discussing with nurses, student nurses and communities regarding the different issues (see appendices for some of the notes.) Also, she promotes vigilance about exploitative practices , campaigning hard and raising funds through “lugaw” fund raising events in relentless and persistent pursuance of the fight .

Through her advocacy, the Board of Nursing issued Resolution No. 31 promulgating that all in-service tgrainings that will be required to be taken by nurses should be paid by the institution.

HER UNFINISHED TASKS

  • With the commitment to gain equity in the health care, She has filed a total of twenty-Six (26) House Measures: Fourteen (14) House Bills and Twelve (12) House Resolutions.
  • She sponsored One (1) House Bill passed into Law, the Graphic Health Warning Law; co-authored Five (5) House Bills passed into Law; 
co-authored Thirty-Four (34) House Measure: Twenty-Eight (28) House Bills 
and Six (6) House Resolutions.
  • ANG NARS Party-list lost in the 2017 elections. God willing, every effort will be done in the next election to have a VOICE in Congress to end the unfinished tasks.

CLOSING

As a Thought leader, a visionary and a reformer, she started to call the Filipino nurses   as the  “CARE SPECIALISTS” and encourages them to use their title “Nurse” like Nurse Leah.

Reforms in health care come hard but not slowly. Not if you have the political will and the  sincere desire to help. As the Principal author of the The Comprehensive Nursing Law was vetoed by President Benigno Aquino, her advise is  to push with  iron-willed fighting to get it passed. So don’t believe  it takes time to make reforms . It takes one day , one will, one person even- to lead the pack and win the day. [3] 

Nars Leah believes that a strong nation begins with healthy constituents. This is what her hearts dictates. You must do what you  want and love what you do. Her vision is to make the nursing sector and health workers an effective partner of the government towards building a strong and healthy nation. She is aware of how difficult it is, how huge and daunting the challenges are. A step towards unification and leadership are some of the issues in the nursing profession, she said. While others struggle to find their voice, she simply stands up for what she believes in and apparently making her stand out as well. She said that the golden years of public health services from the decades of the 50’s up to the early 80’s emphasized that health promotion and disease prevention were available, accessible and affordable in most municipalities.  She underscored the principle of equity and urged nurses to use their title “Nurse”,  take on their social responsibilities to effect reforms in the health care system. To promote equitable and accessible health care services, she said that nurses must move towards being the gatekeepers of health as “Care Specialists”.

Nars Leah’s final call, “There is a big need to look at our present health care system and undertake reforms to meet the Universal Health Care goal. Given the inequity that operates in our present health care system, can she help in the achievement of better equity? What combinations of legislation and health policies can further improve health in our country?

[1] http://www.pna-ph.org/press_releases/8.pdf

[2] http://www.pna-ph.org/pdf/PJNA-Jan2008.pdf , PJN Vol. 78 No. 1

[3] Locsin, Teodoro Jr. Nursing Admminstrators: Leading beyind Limits Philippine Journal of Nursing, January-June 2010, Vol 80 Number 1

 Equity is fundamental to the achievement of the goal
of universal health care.”

“Walang Pangkalusugang Pangkalahatan Kung Walang Mangangalaga sa Sambayanan.”

_________________________________

* “Nurse of the New Century: A Visionary,A Thought Leader ,and A Reformer
by Charisma Samparani-Ututalum, EdD,RN