Enhancing professional regulation in the Philippines through an efficient bureaucracy

written together with: Jongo, Andrea; Mendoza, Charina; Nacianceno, Gabriel;  Padilla, Ruth; and Rellesiva, Maria Theresa

October 2009

A profession is an occupation in which an individual uses an intellectual skill based on an established body of knowledge and practice to provide a specialized service in a defined area, exercising independent judgement in accordance with a code of ethics and public interest (http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn).

The purpose of professional regulation is to assure the quality of professional services with the public’s welfare in mind. Through the years, this purpose has evolved to also ensure that professionals are able to perform within or above standards that are deemed world-class or globally competitive.

The regulation of a profession involves the setting of standards of professional qualifications and practice; the keeping of a Register of qualified persons and the award of titles; determining the conduct of registrants, and the investigation of complaints and disciplinary sanctions for professional misconduct.

This report will discuss the roles and the bureaucracy of the Philippines’ Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), the government agency responsible for the promotion of the development of a corps of competent Filipino professionals; and the pursuance of regulatory measures, programs and activities that enhance professional growth and development towards fostering internationally recognized and world-class professional service and practice. After which, an analysis of the bureaucracy will be made in response to the following points of analysis:

  1. What kind of a bureaucracy is the PRC? What made PRC the way it is?
  2. How has the PRC reformed over the years? Why was there a need for reforms?
  3. Why is professional regulation in the Philippines designed a certain way? How does it compare to that of other countries? How does it compare to other forms of regulation?
  4. Based on existing challenges to the environment of professional regulation, what other bureaucratic reforms are still needed by the PRC?

What kind of a bureaucracy is the PRC?

The PRC is a regulatory body. It is headed by a collegial body composed of a Chairman, with the rank of a Department Secretary and two Commissioners with the rank of Undersecretary (collectively known as the Commission Proper). The PRC or Commission is responsible for the licensing and regulation of certain types of professionals in order to ensure the maintenance of competency, conscientiousness, and integrity in the practice of the various professions under its jurisdiction.

The Commission supervises forty two (42) Professional Regulatory Boards (PRBs), and at the same time, extends technical, legal, and administrative support to the latter.  The members of the PRBs, all of whom are appointed and are themselves licensed professionals, regulate the professions under their respective jurisdiction.

The PRC serves four (4) stakeholders: the 92 million Filipinos, the forty three (43) Accredited Professional Organizations representing the 2.5 million registered Filipino professionals, the forty two (42) Professional Regulatory Boards with 157 members, and the 484 PRC officials and employees. It has three (3) major operating offices:  Licensure Office, Regulations Office, Office of Financial and Administrative Services, and two (2) Ad hoc offices:  Maritime Affairs Office and the Office for Professional Teachers. It has ten Regional Offices in the cities of:  Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Legaspi, Lucena, Tuguegarao, and Zamboanga and two (2) satellite offices in Pagadian (Region 9) and Butuan (Region 10).

The PRC is a regulatory body. As such, and as stated in the Administrative Code of the Philippines, it is “expressly vested with jurisdiction to regulate, administer or adjudicate matters affecting substantial rights and interests of private persons,…” (Sec. 2 (11), E.O. 292, 1987). In this case of the PRC, the interest is that of sustaining the development of a reservoir of world-class professionals and of protecting the general public from allowing people who lack certain competencies to practice professions.

Further elaborating on its role as regulator, we can say that the PRC is expected or must strive to possess the following characteristics derived from the principles of good regulation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD):

  1. Proportionality –PRC should only intervene when necessary. Rules and policies should be appropriate to the professions being regulated, and should, as much as possible be tailor-fitted to each profession.
  2. Accountability – Regulators must be able to justify decisions and be open to public scrutiny.
  3. Consistency – Rules and standards must be harmonious and implemented fairly.
  4. Transparency – Regulators and regulations must be available, clear and easily understood.
  5. Targeting – PRC should focus on solving market failures, taking calculated risks.

What motivates a country to regulate professions? Government regulation is required for areas where a market, when left to operate on its own, fails to function at a certain level of acceptable efficiency. The 43 groups of professionals, and to date, the 5 other groups seeking to join the PRC umbrella, sought the help of the Philippine government in regulating the entry and performance of individual professionals because they cannot perform all the functions needed to protect and develop their professions. Chart 1 of this study gives an idea of the various functions being performed by the PRC.

Understanding how the Philippines’ PRC came to be can help us appreciate better the motives for professional regulation. The narrative below comes from a series of interviews conducted by our group among officers and staff in the PRC. The narrative is succeeded by a discussion on comparing the approaches of other countries to professional regulation.

What made PRC the way it is?

The earliest professional regulation body in the Philippines came about with the institutionalization of the Bureau of Civil Service under “An Act for the Establishment of an Efficient and Honest Civil Service in the Philippines” during the Commonwealth Period. The Bureau’s Boards of Examiners, the members of which were presidential appointees, were in charge of the examination and accreditation of professionals. The establishment of the said Bureau and attached agency aimed to address the problems of bureaucratic corruption, inefficiency, and mediocrity prevalent during these years, and emulate the American system of governance and civil service.

Year 1944 under the Japanese regime, President Jose P. Laurel placed key government units, including the Civil Service Board of Examiners, under his direct control in an attempt to revive the vitality of the bureaucracy hounded by anti-Japanese sentiments.

The ensuing Post-War years until the 1960’s could be characterized as a period of struggle to recover from the war losses and to grapple with the manual way of application processing and test administration and correction. The Boards, which were returned under the auspices of the Bureau, had their test questions written or typed and brought to the Confidential Printing Room early in the morning of the examination day for mimeographing. Answer sheets were manually corrected by the examiners, so it took months to release the results. Registration cards of the successful professionals were typed in cartolina and had one-year validity.

It was during the Martial Law period that the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) was created with the signing of Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 233 on June 22, 1973 by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos. The establishment of an independent PRC was made possible thru the efforts of the professional organizations and the Philippine Association of Board Examiners (PABE) under the leadership of Eric C. Nubla, president of the PABE and Chairman of the Boards of Examiners. In 1974, Commissioner Nubla assumed leadership of the newly-formed Commission.  In the following month, the PRC officially adopted the Coat-of-Arms designed by the Heraldry Commission and used the burned Civil Service Commission (CSC) building at P. Paredes St., which later on became the PRC Main Building. It was also within the year that the following milestones took place: the start of the issuance of certificates of registration in Filipino with English translation; the declaration of June 22 to 29 of the year as “Professional Consciousness Week” pursuant to P.D. 223; the computerization of the database of registered professionals in collaboration with the National Computer Center; and the promulgation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of P.D. 223.

The years that ensued saw the PRC expanding its scope of operations. In 1975, the PRC began issuing computer-printed registration cards, which were valid for one year, and accrediting professional organizations. These developments were followed by the crucial agreement between the PRC and the CSC in August 1976 conferring civil service eligibility to all board examination passers by virtue of Republic Act (R.A.) 1080, as amended.

In 1977, the PRC extended the validity of the registration cards to three years in accordance with the Letter of Instruction No. 567. For the first time, it also bestowed the “Outstanding Professional of the Year” award to qualified candidates. Meanwhile, Proclamation No. 1646 institutionalized the observance of the “Professional Consciousness Week” from June 22-29 every year.

The professional regulatory boards (PRBs) under the wing of the PRC initiated mass oath-taking ceremonies of new professionals in 1982. The specialty boards of Interior Design and Landscape Architecture were formed under the Board of Architecture.

The Post-EDSA Period saw the continuing movement for computerization and modernization. With Hon. Julio B. Franca at the helm of the Commission from 1986 to 1992, the PRC came up with a database of applicants for examination, commenced the monitoring of performance of schools in Certified Public Accountants board examinations through the Board of Accountancy, and effected partially-computerized licensure examinations for physicians, midwives, accountants, medical technologists, and nurses. Executive Order No. 496, also promulgated during his stewardship, prescribed guidelines governing the selection and recommendation to vacant positions in the PRBs.

Hon. Hermogenes P. Pobre, who became the third Chairman of the PRC in 1992, greatly advocated continuing professional education (CPE) in view of globalization and the liberalization of trade in services as enshrined in the World Trade Organization-General Agreement on Trade and Services. Under his term, PRC also revived the awarding of “Outstanding Professional of the Year”, which was on a moratorium from 1986 to 1991. His tenure focused on the computerization and organization of the operations of the PRC: formulation of an Information System Strategic Plan in coordination with the Development Academy of the Philippines; enhanced partial computerization of licensure examinations for marine deck and engine officers and, eventually, for all licensure examinations; development of Test Questions Databank System; and convening participants for the first Commission Planning.

With the enactment of R.A. 7836, otherwise known as the “Philippine Teachers Professionalization Act, the PRC took over the regulation of the teaching profession, a mandate which was formerly upheld by the CSC. This posed problems for the PRC, as the transfer had no corresponding increase in budget to accommodate the largest group of professionals. The Commission had to pool manpower and funds from other PRBs to adjust to its new function.

Budgetary constraints notwithstanding, 1996 heralded a period of growth for the PRC, as field offices in Baguio, Cebu, Legaspi, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao were established. It was also during this year that the PRC reviewed its bilateral Mutual Recognition Agreement with other ASEAN countries in Jakarta, Indonesia to press for the mutual recognition of professional licenses.

In 1998, the PRC adopted its Vision and Mission during the Annual Planning Conference. It also formed the Maritime Affairs Office and the PRC-CHED Educational Statistics Task Force to specialize on the needs of merchant marine officers and monitor performance of schools in licensure examinations, respectively. The following year was a milestone in the history of PRC, as it received the ISO 9002 Certification from the Anglo-Japanese-American Environmental Quality and Safety Certification Services for the licensing of and certification of marine deck and engineer officers.

The monumental law, Republic Act (R.A.) 8981, otherwise known as “The PRC Modernization Act of 2000”, was enacted into law on December 5, 2000 to “wage war against antiquated systems and technologies, as well as negative perceptions”. The said legislation provides for the computerization of the systems of PRC, along with the reinforcement of its mandate and regulatory powers. With this new law came a new head of office in the person of Hon. Antonieta Fortuna-Ibe, the first lady Chairperson who succeeded Acting Chairman-Commissioner Alfonso G. Abad. She effected measures to improve the procedures and facilities of the PRC, and prioritized the eradication of syndicates and fixers. She also scored wins for her agency, as the PRC met the February 1, 2002 deadline set by the International Maritime Organization for the revalidation of the 1978 Standards for Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention Certificates; adopted the “Code of Good Governance for the Profession in the Philippines” and the “Good Governance Code of Ethics for PRBs and PRC Officials and Employees” and fully implemented the Electronic Procurement System.

Through the years, the primary problem hounding the PRC has been inadequate funding. Because it does not have fiscal autonomy, it cannot utilize its annual earnings from fees collected and only relies on its meager share of the national budget. As a result, the PRC deems that it has only half of its ideal workforce. Its small Central Office in Manila could hardly house its employees and the more than 3,000 transacting professionals and applicants. Before the enactment of the PRC Modernization Act, it even had to grapple with outdated systems and machineries, which rendered coping with the pressures of globalization very difficult.

Aside from these constraints, the PRC has also been attempting to veer away from its negative image stemming from the public’s perception of PRC’s inability to purge the “black market” right outside its doorsteps. Fake professional licenses and board licenses proliferate along C.M. Recto Avenue, while syndicates and fixers appear to have access past the confines of the PRC.

On occasion, the PRC has also been met with challenges to resolve high-profile cases of cheating, malpractice, and other controversies that have caught the media’s attention. The most recent of the controversies is the alleged leakage of exam questions of the nursing board examiners to review centers in 2006. In this light, having a regulatory body that provided opinions and decisions on the resolution of such issues as well as more low-key ones proved to be beneficial to the environment for Filipino professionals and the public they serve. But to understand the wisdom behind how the Philippines approach professional regulation, it will be good to look at the approaches of other countries.

How does the Philippines’ approach to professional regulation compare to that of other countries?

Regulation of professionals by the state dates back to the 19th century. As introduced in an earlier section, the demand for government regulation comes from the professionals themselves. They perceive state regulation a means to protect the market and their scope of practice, a limited entry to their practice and to protect their titles and credentials. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as “opportunity hoarding” or opportunities sought by professionals in an attempt to limit access to expertise and entry to practice through advanced education, training, credentials and licenses, in order to strengthen their status and market position. However, as state regulation evolved, this phenomenon has been tempered in favor of a balance between protecting professionals and protecting the public (Adams, 2001).

Apart from the benefits to the professional, the regulation of professions and professionals also helps the government achieve its own objectives. Regulation’s objectives are two-fold. It is normally restrictive of some things and permissive of other things at the same time. Through professional regulation, the state is able to signal that it values the role of the profession and professional to the state. By giving exams and granting titles, the state, through professional boards, are able to give legitimacy to the practice of profession in recognition of the crucial role of these professionals in guiding social behavior. On the other hand, the state also regulates professions to ensure public protection, especially for professions where their unregulated practice may cause harm to people. For instance, the practice of health-related professions has the ability to influence the general health of the public, and is thus heavily regulated by professional boards and supported by its corresponding professional associations.

In summary, by regulating professions, the government is able to limit entry and set appropriate levels of expertise to ensure that professionals are competent. By granting titles to professionals, the government is able to help people identify who the experts are.

Self-regulation

In some countries such as parts of the United States and the United Kingdom, self-regulation is the model used by the state to control the practice of some professions. In these instances, the government entrusts regulatory authority to a board composed of practitioners. This is done through legislation which provides a framework for the regulation of a specified profession, and identifies the extent of the legal authority that has been delegated to the profession’s regulatory body.  In exchange for the benefit of granting professional status, the regulatory body or board is tasked to formulate and implement policy regarding the requirements needed to enter the profession, its guiding code of ethical conduct and standard practices, and a system of penalties to discipline erring members.

A state may choose the degree of autonomy given to a profession by weighing the following factors:

  1. scope and nature of the service rendered;
  2. the distinctiveness of the required body of knowledge;
  3. expertise to practice and the uniqueness of the service rendered to the public; and,
  4. the potential impact, whether positive or negative, to the public good.

(Saskatchewan, 2007)

The first three factors affect the practicality of tightly regulating a profession if its functions can be adequately offered by others with similar skills or training. The last and most important consideration is the degree to which a certain profession can harm or benefit a customer. The state would more likely permit greater autonomy for fields that have limited potential to damage or hurt the general public.

This range of control over regulation may take the form of but is not limited to registration, licensure, and certification. The most minimal is registration, which can be as undemanding as having oneself recorded into an official list or database of professionals. Licensure, on the other hand, is more stringent in evaluating who are qualified to practice. Licenses are usually given to those who have attained a certain level of education and have passed a form of entrance examination. Those who have obtained a license have a monopoly on the practice of their profession. Certification is the process of guaranteeing that an individual passes a level of competence and other perquisites. While they do not have a monopoly on their practice, those certified have a monopoly on titles and credentials. It is a way of informing the public of an individual’s qualification in order that they may decide accordingly whom to receive their services from. (Tremblay, 1998)

Professions stand to benefit from self-regulation in the way of having their own boards develop and implement entry and conduct policies instead of having these imposed on them directly by the state.  Having an extra layer of bureaucracy is removed allows faster adaptability of rules and standards to changes unique to certain professions. For the individual members, this translates to more flexibility and less supervision on their activities. Self-regulating professional boards also serve as a conduit between members and the government and as a medium to lobby to further their interests.

For the government, delegating regulatory powers to professional boards allows them to realize savings. It eliminates the need to hire specialists to help formulate policies unique to the needs of the professions since they are developed by the professionals themselves. Moreover, it provides the government enough distance from liabilities that may arise from actions of decisions made by individual member or the board.

The greatest argument for self-regulation rests on the assertion that only professionals have the skill and knowledge necessary to formulate effective policy to suit the unique needs of their field. The government cannot efficiently monitor developments in the practice of each and every profession. Doing so would require hiring of experts and would be fiscally burdensome. Moreover, the extra layer of policy-making bureaucracy would limit the speed at which these changes are implemented. (Tremblay, 1998)

Recent trends have seen the rise of public demand for more accountability in professional self-regulation. Though professional boards are granted greater autonomy under the self-regulation model, many innovative ways to exact more accountably have been pioneered. One way is to appoint laymen to the regulating bodies. This helps ensures greater public participation and that the policies and regulations put in place are for its welfare. Some states have also required boards to report to concerned government departments or agencies in order to maintain some form oversight over their actions.

State-regulated

In contrast, many Western European countries maintain state-initiated and controlled professional regulation. (Adams, 2001) The government is the sole policy-making authority to regulate entry to and conduct of a practice. This is often done through the actions of a legislative body or concerned agency and with professional organizations as mere consultants. Individual professionals are seen as employees or extensions of the state in performing governance work and public service.

By keeping the regulatory powers within the purview of state officials, the government seeks to ensure the achievement of the public good in the practice of professionals. It does so by minimizing opportunities for professionals to use their vital and unique role in society as undue leverage for furthering their own interests at the expense of consumers.

How does the PRC compare to other regulators?

The PRC can be compared and contrasted to other regulatory bodies in the country on four different fronts and they are as follows:

1)      PRC adopts a mixed approach of state- and self- regulation

A state regulator and professionals have different perspectives in managing professions. This thus creates two varied views when we talk about state-regulation and self-regulation (or non regulation) of professions. A study from the Erasmus University Rotterdam-School of Law (Van der Burg, 2009) cited that while a professional is focused on aspiration and values, dreaming, and exceeding existing standards for their professions; a state regulator would tend to focus on setting minimum requirements. For instance, a professional association would most likely put its resources on continuing education workshops and annual conferences in order to stretch the horizons of their profession. Meanwhile, a state regulator of the same profession would focus its energies on setting minimum grades, performance standards and other quantitative gauges of the quality of a professional’s service. Professionals, as the same study states, have an “aspirational dimension.” Most are oriented towards ideals, especially towards aspects of the common good, and are, as a consequence, interested in how they succeed in delivering those goods – i.e. the process of doing such. The government, on the other hand, also wishes for the development of professions and professionals in the country, but is to protect the public by minimizing or completely eliminating the risk of malpractice and its accompanying risks to the public.

A way to reduce the tension between these two opposing views is to create a buffer or an interstitial layer between professionals and the state. This is exactly why professional regulation in the Philippines has a certain hierarchy to it. It has, from the time of the inception of a professional regulatory body, adopted a mix of state- and self-regulation of professions.

The Philippines’ state-regulation of professions, through the PRC, is reflected through regulatory and service-oriented functions as administering exams, record-keeping, rate-setting and complaints handling or investigation. But the Commission is also expected to perform other regulatory and ministerial functions as an agency of the national government tasked to oversee the PRBs.

As the PRC is unable to gain expertise on all 43 professions, the PRBs, in cooperation with accredited professional organizations, are able to fill the gap. At the same time, the PRBs are able to help the PRC and the government in upholding the state policy of promoting the development of a reservoir of professionals towards enhancing nation-building. The PRBs are headed by professionals themselves, thus, their challenge is to be effective transformers, able to switch between the perspectives of professionals and the state. The PRBs, in a way, provide a first layer of regulation; while the PRC regulates the actions of the PRBs, professionals, and employees of the Commission. These 42 PRBs are expected to perform functions that will enhance the quality of professionals and protect the members of their profession that may pose harm to the reputation of their fields. By preparing licensure exams, prescribing course requirements and code of ethics, they are also able to ensure that the public can trust in the technical competence and ethical standards of professionals; and that they are protected against fraudulent practitioners.

A benefit of having a mixed approach to professional regulation in the Philippines is that the PRC is not forced to have in-house expertise on all the 43 professions it regulates. By having PRBs headed by the professionals themselves, the Commission is allowed to perform its functions with a relatively small organization. On the hand, if the country only had PRBs without the PRC, standardization of application/renewal and examination procedures and integrity of test question selection may be compromised as there is no overarching body to regulate the PRBs. The preparation of test questions by PRBs and the administration of exams by the PRC, complemented by the computerized test question database, allows for a cheat-proof checks and balance system in the selection of exam questions.

This mixed approach of state- and self-regulation through an additional layer of regulation is quite unique to professional regulation. The regulation of other sectors may take on a more straightforward approach. Take the example of two other bodies that perform regulatory functions for the sake of development, the Civil Service Commission (a constitutional body) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (a sophisticated regulator of the power sector, created by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act). The CSC sets minimum standards for aspiring and existing civil servants, as well as government career executives. The ERC sets minimum standards for the distribution sector of the power industry. Both are largely state-regulation oriented. While looking at the sectors of government service and the power industry, we can see that there are segments of the sectors that are not regulated (i.e. presidential appointees and the generation and supply sectors, respectively) – we cannot still say, however, that these sectors are self-regulated as in the case of the PRBs.

2)      PRC is a regulatory body but mainly performs service-delivery

The PRC performs regulatory and service delivery functions. This chart summarizes and presents how, even as a regulator, the PRC is heavily service-oriented.

CHART 1. Functions of the PRC

Regulatory Service-Oriented Ministerial
  1. Adopt and promulgate rules and regulations to effectively implement policies with respect to the regulation and practice of the professions
  2. Review, revise, approve resolutions embodying policies of PRBs
  3. Determine and fix the amount of fees for exams, registration, ID, certification, docket, appeal, replacement, accreditation
  4. Supervise foreign nationals practicing their profession in the Philippines
  5. Adopt and institute a comprehensive rating system for universities, colleges, and training institutes based on the passing ratio and overall performance of students in board examinations
  6. Exercise administrative supervision over the various professional regulatory boards and its members
  7. Investigate and decide administrative matters involving officers and employees under the jurisdiction of the Commission
  8. Investigate motu proprio or upon the filing of a verified complaint; revoke or suspend their certificates of registration and professional licenses/identification cards
  9. Issue summons, subpoena and subpoena duces tecum in connection with the investigation of cases against officials and employees of the Commission and the members of the PRBs

10.  Hold in contempt an erring party or person only upon application with a court of competent jurisdiction

  1. Administer and conduct the licensure examinations of the various regulatory boards; publish the list of successful examinees
  2. Admit the successful examinees to the practice of the profession or occupation; cause the entry of their names on its registry book and computerized database; issue certificates of registration/professional license
  3. Have custody of all the records of the various Boards, including examination papers, minutes of deliberation, records of administrative cases and investigations and examination results for control and disposition
  4. Approve the registration of and authorize the issuance of a certificate of registration/license and professional identification card with or without examination to a foreigner
  5. Monitor the performance of schools in licensure examinations and publish the results thereof in a newspaper of national circulation
  6. Implement the program for the full computerization of all licensure examinations including the registration of professionals and other operations of the Commission not later than the year 2003
  7. Appoint officials and employees of the Commission necessary for the effective performance of its functions and responsibilities; prescribe their duties and fix their compensation; and create or abolish positions or change the designation of existing positions… to meet the changing conditions or as the need arises
  8. Authorize any officer of the Commission to administer oaths
  9. Call upon or request any department, instrumentality, office, bureau, institution or agency of the government including LGU to render assistance to carry out policies
  10. Prepare an annual report of accomplishments on the programs, projects and activities of the Commission during the year for submission to Congress
  11. Perform such other functions and duties as may be necessary to carry out the provisions

In fact, in the PRC bureaucracy, the Licensure Office, which provides assistance from application to examination to license renewal, is still the more utilized office over the Regulatory Office which handles administrative supervision of PRBs, cases, investigations, and complaints.

In contrast, the CSC is largely known as a stern regulator especially for government agencies seeking an expansion of their bureaucracy. But, as Karina David, former head of the CSC highlights, the CSC needs to reorient itself towards “assistance rather than regulation” in the operations of government (Domingo). Similarly, the ERC, even amidst its claim that it is a light-handed regulator, is mainly known for its role in the approval of rates and the incessant setting of rules and regulations.

3)      The PRC is a relatively small government bureaucracy

The PRC’s workforce of around 400 employees is about the same number as other regulatory entities. The challenge for PRC however is that being a largely service-oriented agency serving a growing number of professionals, it feels the strain of having a workforce the size of other more regulation-oriented bodies. This small bureaucracy perhaps is in preparation for the computerization/modernization envisioned in RA 8981 which created the new PRC in 2000. But the size is also beneficial in that it is able to make the PRC bureaucracy to focus more on the so-called “administrative continuum” as against the political continuum as discussed by (Alfiler, 2003); and is able to develop a corps of career service officers in the Commission who are recognized and respected by the Commissioners and Chair as vanguards of PRC’s history.

4)      (Lack of) Autonomy

However, the evolution or “reengineering” of the PRC has had its share of politics. Like the other regulators, it used to report to the Office of the President. After the “nursing scandal of 2006” the PRC was ordered to be an attached agency of the DOLE, a line agency in the executive branch.

On the other extreme, the ERC was created as an independent regulator and is not an attached agency of the policy-making and development agency of the energy sector, the Department of Energy. This is unique arrangement created by the EPIRA Law because the administrative code states that:

Chapter 9

RELATIONSHIP OR GOVERNMENT-OWNED OR CONTROLLED CORPORATIONS AND REGULATORY AGENCIES TO THE DEPARTMENT

Sec. 42. Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations. – Government-owned or controlled corporations shall be attached to the appropriate department with which they have allied functions, as hereinafter provided, or as may be provided by executive order, for policy and program coordination and for general supervision provided in pertinent provisions of this Code.

Another kind and a more usual set-up would be like the Toll Regulatory Board which is an attached agency of the Department of Transportation and Communications, as stated in the Administrative Code.

It is thus interesting to note that there is no one way of treating and respecting the autonomy of regulatory bodies in the Philippine government. The treatment could possibly be reflective of the political environment at the time a decision on the reporting structure is deemed.

As for the subject of fiscal autonomy, which is enjoyed by constitutional commission, it is the frustration of most regulatory agencies that they are unable to utilize its earnings from the collection of fees and penalties because they do not have fiscal autonomy. The PRC is not alone in this crusade towards full or partial fiscal autonomy for their agency. However, it may be appropriate to note that earnings from their activities go back to the coffers of the government because they are redistributed to agencies providing basic and developmental needs such as public education and health.

All four points previously stated are summarized in the table below.

CHART 2. Comparison of Regulatory/Constitutional Government Agencies

Regulatory/Constitutional government agency Type and degree of regulation Roles Size of bureaucracy Degree of autonomy
Professional Regulation Commission Mixed approach of self-regulation and state-regulation Resources and manpower largely devoted to registration, examination, and licensing services 484 Reports to DOLE; no fiscal autonomy
Civil Service Commission State-regulated Functions are largely regulatory and stipulated in the Constitution (Article IX) Constitutional body; has fiscal autonomy
Energy Regulatory Commission State-regulated transitioning into light-handed regulation Focused on approving rates, preparing rules, serving consumer complaints Appx. 300 Reports to the Office of the President; no fiscal autonomy

How has the PRC reformed over the years?

The PRC Modernization Act of 2000

Then President Joseph Estrada approved Republic Act 8981, known as the PRC Modernization Act of 2000.  It repealed Presidential Decree 223, signed by then President Ferdinand Marcos. The PRC is headed by one full time Chairperson and two full-time Commissioners.  They are Presidential appointees serving a term of seven years.  They sit and act as a body to exercise general administrative, executive, and policy-making bodies of the Commission.

Currently, the PRC Chairman is Nicolas P. Lapeña, Jr. and the two commissioners are Nilo Rosas and Ruth Rana Padilla.

It supervises PRBs and at the same time, extends technical, legal, and administrative support to the latter. PRBs have the responsibility of regulating the practice of professions in accordance with the provisions of their professional regulatory laws. They also monitor the practices and conditions affecting the practice of the professions under their jurisdiction.

The functions of the PRC are three-fold:

a)      Quasi-Judical
The PRC investigates cases against erring examinees and professionals. Its decisions have the force and effect of the decisions of a court of law, with the same level of authority as a Regional Trial Court.

b)      Quasi-Legislative
The PRC formulates rules and policies on professional regulation

c)      Executive
It also administers, implements, and enforces the regulatory policies of the national government, including the maintenance of professional and occupational standards and ethics and the enforcement of the rules and regulations relative thereto.

Efforts at Modernization

  1. Customer-Focused Service

All practicing professionals are required to possess a license issued by the PRC.  It is thus critical for the PRC to process the applications of the professionals (both new and renewal) as quickly as possible. PRC eliminated the ID printing backlog of 200,485 of June 2003.  It also implemented a fast lane for nurses, Philippine Seafarers One-Stop-Shop Center at Philippine Overseas Employment Authority (POEA).   PRC also conducted various information campaigns through “Campus Tours,” “Student Congress,” and “PRC-on-Wheels”.

  1. Good Governance

The PRC prepared the “Code of Good Governance for the Professions in the Philippines” and implemented it through Executive Order 220 signed on June 23, 2003.  It also implemented the “Good Governance Code of Ethical Standards for PRC Officials and Employees.” Furthermore, it launched an all-out war against fake licensing syndicates and filing of charges in 50 cases involving fake professionals, as well as actively campaigned with the LGUs and corporations encouraging them to hire individuals with valid PRC IDs only.

  1. Integrity of the Licensure Examinations

In order to promote objectivity and fairness in the administration of test examinations, the PRBs draft examination questions with test consultants of the PRC.  They work hand in hand with various academic organizations that provide a table of specifications in order to ensure that questions given during board exams are in alignment with theories and practices taught in the classrooms.

They also computerized the process of checking the examination papers, minimizing human intervention, and quickening the release of results, to an average of 3.62 working days.

  1. ICT Improvements

RA 8981 provided a total of PhP 225 Million for ICT improvements of the PRC.  Several of their initiatives are as follows:

  • Central Records Management Information System (CRMIS)
  • Web Portal Project
  • Licensure Examination Registration Information System (LERIS) & Extension
  • Data Migration Project
  • Office Systems Automation 1 (OSA 1)
  • Security and Disaster Management Systems (SDMS)

The PRC also optimized a test package generation, in order to isolate human interference from the examination process.  In this process, a total of 500 test questions are fed into the database.  The database will then sort these questions according to difficulty, as easy, moderate and difficult.  It will then generate the exam by randomly selecting the exam questions based on difficulty.  In the case of the Walk-in Examination System for Marine Deck and Engine Operators, for which this system was initially launched, licensure exams can be conducted online at any given time, with the test package different per examinee, and where the results and ratings are immediately known after the examination is completed.

To date, these ICT initiatives are still underway, with some in its final stages of completion.  Budgetary constraints as well as staffing problems plague the full implementation of the ICT projects of the PRC.

  1. Global Competitiveness Among Professions

In light of globalization and rapid advances in technology, Filipino professionals must keep themselves updated with industry trends and practices.  Board exams are administered not only to measure the current level of knowledge and skills of potential professionals, but also to assess them based on competency requirements of the industry.

The PRC also recognizes the need for the continuing improvement of its professionals.  It initiated the promotion of the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) in 1997, and is designed to enhance the technical skills and professional competence of the professional. Unfortunately, the mandatory CPE program was removed in the PRC Modernization Act of 2000. This is a feature that the Commission hopes to reinstitute in the future.

Towards further bureaucratic reform in response to the changing environment of bureaucracies

Scholar Jose Abueva said that reorganization is implicated in the political process not just because it relocates power and resources, but also because it alters policy (Domingo). A continuous quest to improve the efficiency of PRC’s bureaucracy in both its service-oriented and regulatory functions can go in one of two directions. The first and more traditional of which is to increase the command and control role of the PRC in regulating the professions. This direction will be characterized by an increase in the number of professional groups that will ask to be regulated by the PRC, more stringent examination and license renewal procedures, and more rules emanating from the government on how professionals are to be developed. The second direction is a gradual phasing out of government involvement in professional regulation, where the PRC shall plan a strategic turning over of professional regulation to another government agency, PRBs or professional organizations. A forecast and study of the impact of both directions will help determine how the PRC will position itself in the years to come.

When the PRC was “modernized” in the year 2000 by Republic Act 8981, one of the intentions was to provide for national government support in the modernization of technologies used in professional regulation, particularly its licensing functions, in order to address issues on the integrity of the exams and the examination process. (See attached committee reports on the House Bill/s that lead to R.A. 8981.) But the law also possessed some weaknesses. First, as the same committee reports reveal, the senate then decided to remove the policy that mandates CPE as a pre-requisite to license renewal. Secondly, while it has clearly stipulated support for technological improvements, the final version of the Act is silent on what it envisions for the PRC bureaucracy that will operate the technologies. Proposals to modestly increase the number of front-line and service staff in proportion to the number of professionals and exam applicants have been turned down by the Department of Budget Management and the Civil Service Commission. In the interviews we have conducted, the PRC staff and officials were very vocal in expressing the need for bureaucratic reforms in the areas of human resource (HR) and organizational development (OD).

Almost a decade since the passing of the PRC’s new governing law, officials and staff have come to realize that e-government is just one of the ways to “modernize” the PRC bureaucracy. There is a need to enhance the adaptation of the current PRC bureaucracy to the trends in HR/OD and globalization that are changing the environment of Philippine bureaucracy. On this note and as a concluding statement, our group outlined some of these trends and our corresponding recommendations to the PRC in the table below:

CHART 3. Trends and Recommendations

Trends Recommendations
Political Specific to PRC: (Proposed amendments to the PRC charter) Organization Development-related improvements; improvements on the PRC Modernization Act (not just focused on technological advancements); Re-instating the mandatory Continuing Professional Education as pre-requisite to license renewal
Economic Global Competitiveness Review of and adherence to the Global Agreement on Trade of Services, and other such agreements. Having a PRC is advantageous because the various professions do not have to disjointedly or independently lobby for the Filipino professionals’ rights, but they have the option to ask PRC to shepherd international negotiations together with other government agencies such as the DTI and DOLE.
Social Global citizens Strengthen mutual agreements with other countries that promote Filipino professionals
Information Knowledge management Spearhead the management of information which is vital, up-to-date, and accurate, for the utilization of the various PRBs under its jurisdiction, and their stakeholders, which include the entire Philippines.  Ensure that there is a system that captures and transfers individual and organizational knowledge into a resource that can be accessed by everyone in the organization. Construct a knowledge management system, making sure that correct and up-to-date information resources flow seamlessly from PRC, as regulatory body, to PRB, as professional boards, to professionals, as primary drivers for success in the economy.
Legal Summary Procedure Submission of reports to the Commissioner or Head of agency for independent evaluation that will assess the formal investigation conducted on the speed disposition of cases and quality of dispute resolution services
Technological Technological convergence There should be true technological convergence: integration of all existing operations of the regions and the Central Office, with emphasis on the following: processing of applications, renewal of licenses, information dissemination, records storage and retrieval, and global networking for continuous professional development. Adopting the framework set by Thomas Friedman on globalization and achieving a “flat world”, technologies should make information and processes accessible for everybody, enabling individuals, corporations, and nation-states to reach out to each other “farther, faster, deeper, and cheaper” than before.

To keep themselves abreast of these technological developments and global movements, the individuals comprising the human resource should regularly upgrade their skills and “stay curious and innovative”.

Sources:

  1. Adams, T. (2009). The Changing Nature of Professional Regulation in Canada. Duke University.
  2. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
  3. Saskatchewan, R. (2007). Professional Self-regulation. SSRNA Council.
  4. Tremblay, M. (1998). The Right of Establishment for Professionals in European Law. Springfield UK.
  5. Van der Berg, V. (2009). The Regulation of Professionals: Two Conflicting Perspectives. Erasmus Working Paper Series on Jurisprudence and Socio-Legal Studies.
  6. http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn.
  1. Alfiler, Ma. Concepcion. (2003). “The Political – Administrative Accountability Continuum in the Philippine Public Service” in Public Administration in the Philippines: A Reader (eds) Bautista, Alfiler et al . Quezon City: UP NCPAG
  2. Domingo, Ma. Oliva (ed)  The Civil Service Commission Self – Assessment and Alternative Views and Assessments (2001-2004). QC: UP Press.
  3. Executive Order No. 292 (The Administrative Code of 1987)
  1. Interviews with Dir. Amy Empaynado and Dir. Palabyab of the PRC
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