Ex-NBI chief Gierran can conduct investigations, is 'best choice' to lead PhilHealth â Palace
In this file photo, then National Bureau of Investigations Director Dante Gierran appears at a congressional hearing.
The STAR, file

Ex-NBI chief Gierran can conduct investigations, is 'best choice' to lead PhilHealth — Palace

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - September 1, 2020 - 5:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — Newly-appointed Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) chief Dante Gierran is the "best choice" for the job, Malacañang said Tuesday, after some sectors questioned his capability to lead the embattled state-run insurer.

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Gierran as PhilHealth president on Monday, replacing Ricardo Morales, who resigned last week supposedly to focus on his health.

Gierran, a former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director and a certified public accountant (CPA), will take over the leadership at PhilHealth as the insurer is being probed over supposedly fraudulent schemes that resulted in the loss of billions in funds.

The PhilHealth Workers for Hope, Integrity, Transparency, and Empowerment has expressed disappointment over the appointment of Gierran, saying Duterte should have tapped a finance expert for the job. The workers' group, however, have expressed readiness to support the new PhilHealth chief.

Gierran is qualified, Palace says

Asked to react to criticisms against Gierran's appointment, presidential spokesman Harry Roque insisted that the retired NBI chief is qualified for the post.

"Since the crimes being committed in PhilHealth are white collar crimes, we need someone who can understand financial reports, financial records, and balance statements I think Director Gierran is the best choice because he is a CPA and has an experience in criminal investigation," Roque said at a press briefing.

"We expect PhilHealth to be cleansed within the president's remaining two years in office," he added.

Section 14 of the Universal Healthcare Law states that the president and chief executive officer of PhilHealth should be a Filipino citizen, has at least seven years of experience in the field of public health, management, finance, and health economics, or a combination of any of these expertise.

The law also states that the president, upon the recommendation of the PhilHealth board, shall appoint the PhilHealth president and chief executive officer from the board's non-ex officio members.

While Gierran has admitted knowing nothing about the operations of PhilHealth, Roque said the retired NBI chief still fits the qualifications set by the law.

"Director Gierran already has seven years [of] management experience. It does not need to be health economics experience," Roque said.

"The problem with PhilHealth is corruption so the president thought the best person to appoint is one who is capable of conducting investigations," he added.

The Department of Justice and other members of the multi-agency "Task Force PhilHealth" are already investigating the alleged corruption at PhilHealth.

Roque also claimed that Gierran has not been tainted with corruption, making him qualified to implement a cleansing of the ranks in the state-run health insurer.

Pressed why Duterte did not follow the provision which states that the appointment of the PhilHealth president should be done upon the recommendation of the insurer's board, Roque replied: "Well, we don’t know if there is such a recommendation. Majority of the board members anyway are ex-officio members of the Cabinet. There are only four individuals who are not members of the Cabinet as far as I know."

'Find someone we can send to jail'

During a meeting of the government's pandemic task force, Duterte ordered Gierran to implement a reshuffle in PhilHealth in two to three days and to relieve all regional vice presidents from their post.

"I told him the next two years will be devoted to (fighting) against corruption. Find people we can send to jail," he said.

"You study on that and all regional vice presidents, relieve them (from their posts), whether performing at par or in parity with the other good ones. You know, if they are there for so long a time, the element of familiarity always enters the picture."

Officials who refuse to leave their posts would be asked to report in Malacañang, the president said.

Duterte said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is winding up its investigation on the alleged massive corruption in PhilHealth. Guevarra leads the multi-agency task force created to look into the supposed irregularities in the state-run insurer.

"I think that he (Guevarra) has seen proof enough to come up with an indictment. I hope that this sad episode in our national life — in our journey towards nation-building will be somehow corrected," the president said.

Gierran admitted that his new post is a "very tough job" but vowed to restore the public's trust and confidence in the health insurer.

"I have been listening (to) hearings conducted by the two chambers in Congress: Senate and the House of Representatives. I was really aghast about the sorry state of PhilHealth. Corruption here and there," Gierran said.

"I am one who would not back out from a mission and this is a mission. I know it’s a huge mission and I am consoled by the fact that this early, there are (offers of support) coming in," he added.

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