Board of engineers backs OFW examinees


The Board of Civil Engineers had warned the chair of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) that the reformatted licensure examination they were sending to overseas testing centers needed fine-tuning. As it was, it seemed near impossible to pass.

Apollo Enriquez, chair of the Civil Engineering (CE) Board, had written PRC chair Teresita Manzala last November, saying he was “deeply worried” that the sudden increase in the number of questions from 30 to 100 per set—without any adjustment in the time given for solving complex problems—was “extremely difficult” and may only encourage guessing. This would only decrease the effectiveness of the tests aimed at judging professional proficiency, he added in his letter, a copy of which was obtained  by the Inquirer.

He urged the PRC to reconsider its decision, warning that if it pushed through with the controversial examination, initially in the Middle East, it “will result in a drastic drop in passing the percentage, and may even result in a zero passing” rate.

Enriquez, together with CE Board members Praxedes  Bernardo and Nigel Paul Villarete, urged the commissioners to allow them to first “fine-tune the CE professional board examinations” so as not to disenfranchise the overseas examinees.

The appeal of the Board was denied by the PRC.

True enough, out of 151 engineering examinees who took the reformatted special OFW exam administered last December 9 to 11, 2011, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emitates; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; and Doha in Qatar, only one passed—a drop from an average  passing rate over the years of about 30 percent to less than one percent (0.66 percent to be exact).

Glaring anomaly

The results, a member of the CE Board later reflected, were a “glaring anomaly.”

As early as Dec. 21, the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia (PICE-EPSA chapter) wrote to Manzala crying: “This is unfair!”

The overseas engineers noted that examinees in the Philippines were given the standard 30-question per set test.

In behalf of the examinees in his area, PICE-EPSA president Feleo Gines requested an  explanation from the PRC. This has been followed by similar protests from other overseas Filipino engineers groups.

“We consider this so-called adjustment, unreasonable and unfair to the examinees here in the Middle East,” said PICE-Qatar president Delfino de Leon in his letter, also demanding an explanation from the PRC chair.

Manzala, a former labor attaché and official of the Department of Labor, was appointed chair of the PRC in January 2010.

So far she has not formally replied to the letters of the overseas engineer associations.

PRC’s comment

When earlier sought for comment, PRC spokesperson and chief of staff Louis Valera defended PRC’s move. He said: “It is within the discretion of the PRC board to give 100-item questionnaires because it is in the table of specifications.”

As for the lack of an advisory on the changes, Valera said: “The PRC does not need to advise them (licensure examination takers) because they are supposed to be well aware of this.”

The board’s discretion, Valera claimed, was based on “the responsiveness of the examinations to current trends to ensure the competitiveness of takers in their respective fields.”

Status quo call

Villarete, who has since resigned from the CE Board to become general manager and CEO of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority,  confirmed that the board had sought reconsideration of the PRC decision to reformat the exam.

Contacted by the Inquirer, Villarete urged the PRC to return to its old format in the meantime as the Commission has yet to address the concerns raised over the recent examinations in the Middle East.

If the PRC really wanted to upgrade licensure examinations, he suggested that board work first be done for the amendment of the Civil Engineering syllabus, format and time schedule.

Villarete also confirmed he sent a follow-up letter to the PRC last January that contained these suggestions.

In that letter, he had described the Middle East exam as “unfortunate.”

“It is highly improbable that we suddenly have a batch of examinees so incompetent that their passing percentage is less than 1 percent.

“The near-to-zero passing is attributed to the examination format and administration,” he had concluded.

“Increasing the number of questions to 100 is not the problem—it is the limited time allocated per subject which is the problem. If the number of questions is increased as desired by the commission, then the time duration for the subject should be increased accordingly,” he added in an e-mailed message to the Inquirer.

He reiterated that it would be extremely difficult for examinees to pass with only three minutes allotted per question.

“If we need to give 100 problems, well and good. I can agree with that. But give them enough time to solve the 100 problems,” he said.

PRC’s judgment

Villarete said it all depended on the discretion of the commission, which had “the full authority to make the decision.”

Regarding the rejection of the board’s appeal for reconsideration last November, Villarete said, “The board is always cognizant of the administrative power of the PRC … and so we complied.”

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • beerhunters

    wow! its all about power!! So, why did the PRC gave the usual test format to those in the philippines and the reformatted test to those in the middle east?? This is grossly unfair!! Is this part of the”tuwid na daan” policy of the Pnoy administration?? Or the cross-eyed competence of the PRC?

    • billy31

       Incompetence in PRC ! Especially the Commissioner handling the Civil Engineers!

      • beerhunters

        Probably, those conducting reviews in the middle east doesn’t do homage and deliver their tribute to the “commissioners” in the PRC. Like the business of jueteng in the provinces, those engage in this business usually has to “coordinate” with the PNP director, political bigwigs or else they can’t operate! obviously that’s a warning to those reviewers in the middle east, “matriculate or no go, remember we can make life difficult for you guys”.

  • Vanex Cedeno

  • VanexUngas

    I think the PRC have their strong reason why they do so. . . I am a Licensed Civil Engineer ( Phil. Exam.) and an active member in PICE-Cebu Chapter. . . when I got work in Qatar, (of course I stayed there) I am not longer ACTIVE in PICE activities, for a reason that: the some of the PICE-Qatar Officials/Member are Underboard-Civil-Engineering-Graduate (not a PRC holder). . .in the event of PRC Board Examination, the alleged Officials/Member become the examines and also; 
    1. they are  in-charge in room assignments,2. they are in-charge to hire proctor, 3. they can even bring there cellular phones,4. they can call/text a friend (one of my friend called me while taking the exam)5. they can go around and ask for answersNote: this is not my personal opinion, but this a group concerns, my fellow Licensed Civil Engineers in our villa have the same vision, to keep the integrity of CE, if you want to be a Civil Engineer then work for it. . . NO CHEATING PLEASEThank you PRC for this action, prior to this variation, and average passing rate of 60-80% which is far from 30-35% in the Philippines Examination. . .

    • Philippine Institute of

      Just to correct this misinformation. Since PICE Qatar was founded in 2009, there has never been an officer who was underboard since one of the requirement to be eligible as a candidate for a Board of Director postion is that he/she must be a Regular Member, one that has passed the Licensure Examinations.  Also, during examinations, there was never a member of any Filipino Professional Organization who became proctors.

  • 197501

    for you engr.vanexungas,hindi ikaw sir ang nakaranas ng exam,na katulad ng naibigay sa batch namin,sa tingin ko,sa kamalasan,sa batch pa namin natapat ang PAGHIHIGANTI( para sa akin)ng PRC dahil sa magandang percentage passing ng 2010 batch.dahil mismo noong araw ng exam,nang ibigay na sa amin ang test questionaire,alam mo ba lahat ay nag react na bakit naman bigla na natriple higit pa ang bilang ng test item.sumagot naman ang proctor,ito ay dahil daw sa mataas ang passing rate last 2010.ok andoon na ako,pinaniniwalaan nila na dahil siguro sa may nag cheating.DI BA KAPABAYAAN NA RIN NG PRC YUN?KUNG TOTOO MAN,Ang hirap kasi sa PRC,PINAGHUHUGASAN NILA NG KAMAY ANG KANILANG KAPABAYAAN.DI BA SIR, VANEXUNGAS,ANO SIR SA PALAGAY NYO?at ang masakit batch namin ang nagsuffer.SAKA NANINIWALA KA BA SIR NA LAHAT NG BOARD PASSERS KATULAD MO E,WALANG MASAMANG TINAPAY SA KANILANG PAGPASA?,I DONT THINK SO EKA NGA.kawawa naman sir ung takot magcheating na nagkakanda taranta sa pagsagot at nalalaglagan pa ng calculator dahil sa sobrang time pressure,imaginin mo sir,3 minuto lamang ang alloted time per test ang diagram nasa likod lahat ng test paper,kailangan mo pang buklat buklatin,na isa pang napakalaking abala habang ikaw ay nag iisip.hay naku sir ewan ko ba.kung bakit natapat pa ako sa batch na ito.malas naman ng batch namin.pinag eksperimentuhan ng PRC.cge sir salamat.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos