Duterte appoints ex-NBI director Gierran as new PhilHealth chief
This undated photo former NBI Director Dante Gierran
Freeman, File

Duterte appoints ex-NBI director Gierran as new PhilHealth chief

(Philstar.com) - August 31, 2020 - 9:25pm

MANILA, Philippines (Update 3, 11:06 p.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte named former National Bureau of Investigation chief Dante Gierran as the new head of the embattled Philippine Heath Insurance Corp. Monday evening.

Gierran would be tasked to regain the public’s trust in the state health insurer and ensure the proper use of its funds, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

He will replace former PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales, who recently stepped down from his post after Duterte advised him to do so because of his health.

Gierran, a lawyer and former NBI regional director for Davao, was appointed NBI director in 2016.

He had been regional NBI director for Davao from 2013 to 2016 and was training director of the NBI training division before that.

Gierran joined the NBI in 1990 after 11 years as a credit investigator, according to a 2017 profile by the Rotary Club of Manila. He is also a certified public accountant.

He was NBI director when the bureau launched an investigation into allegations of "ghost" dialysis treatements that a clinic in Quezon City allegedly charged PhilHealth for.

RELATED: WellMed owner released after six days in NBI custody


PhilHealth union seeks 'expert in health insurance' as caretaker

In early August, as hearings in Congress on the alleged irregularities of PhilHealth began, PhilHealth employees had urged that an interim caretaker be named to lead the state insurer since its top executives had indicated they would go on medical leave.

The PhilHealth Workers for Hope, Integrity, Transparency and Empowerment (PhilHealth-WHITE) called on Duterte in an August 9 statement "to put in charge a caretaker who is an expert in the field of health insurance with proven integrity and incorruptibility — someone who is not himself or herself under investigation." 

They said PhilHealth should be led by "[s]omeone devoid of vested interest...by doing so, all doubts about whitewashing and cover-up would be dispelled, and we would therefore be ensured of a fair and honest investigation that will weed out the guilty and not simply hang scapegoats." 

Malacañang earlier said the resignation of Morales, a former Army general, would not absolve him of possible criminal and administrative liabilities.

PhilHealth is hounded by allegations of a “mafia” pocketing billions in funds through anomalous transactions and procurement of overprices IT equipment and coronavirus test kits.

PhilHealth officials, including Morales, have denied the accusations.

Duterte: Remove regional vice presidents

In a taped address late Monday, Duterte said he had told Gierran that the last two years of his administration will be devoted to the fight against corruption. 

“Maghanap kayo ng mapapakulong natin para may maiwan tayo sa kulungan,” he said. 

The president also ordered a reshuffle in PhilHealth and the removal of all regional vice presidents of the state health insurer.

“Lahat ng regional vice presidents tanggalin niyo (Remove all regional vice presidents), whether performing, at par or in parity with other good ones. If they are there for so long a time, the element of familiarity always enters the picture,” the president said, adding those who do not want to be removed should report to his office.

“Anyway, the secretary of justice is winding up his investigation, I think he has seen enough proof to come up with indictment. I hope this sad episode in our national life, in our journey toward nation building will be somehow corrected,” he said. 

Gierran, given the chance to speak at the meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease, said he did not apply for the position and that he knows it is a tough job. He said, however, that he will take on the task "like a good soldier."

"All I have to do is to restore the trust and confidence of people in PhilHealth. Restoring trust and confidence of people to PhilHealth is equivalent to restoring trust of people to our government, to the governance," he also said.

"I have to strike a balance between improving PhilHealth services to people and addressing the perennial issue of deeply-rooted corruption in PhilHealth," he added.

Both houses of Congress held investigative hearings on alleged anomalies in the state health insurer. The Senate is expected to release its committee report and recommendations this week.

The House of Representatives, meanwhile, is set to hold another inquiry this week.  — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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