PhilHealth

Duterte eyes ex-NBI chief Gierran to head PhilHealth

Sofia Tomacruz
Duterte eyes ex-NBI chief Gierran to head PhilHealth

Rappler Screenshot

Rappler

(3rd UPDATE) The PhilHealth board needs to elect Dante Gierran before he is able to assume the role of CEO and president of the state health insurer

President Rodrigo Duterte wants former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) chief Dante Gierran to become the new president and chief executive officer of the embattled Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed this to Rappler on Monday evening, August 31.

Gierran, who retired from the NBI in February, still needs to be elected by the PhilHealth board before he is able to assume the role of CEO and president.

“He is a retired director of the NBI. Gierran is a lawyer and an accountant, so I think, and I told him, the next two years will be devoted to fight against corruption. Look for people we can put behind bars,” Duterte said in a mix of English and Filipino during a Cabinet meeting aired later on Monday.

In the same Cabinet meeting with Duterte, Gierran said he is “aghast” whenever he hears about the “sorry state of PhilHealth.”

“I did not apply for the position because I know it is a very tough job. But just like General Galvez and like Secretary of National Defense (Delfin Lorenzana), I’m also a good soldier,” Gierran said, adding that he is “one who would not back out from a mission.”

“Restoring the trust and confidence of our people in PhilHealth is equivalent to restoring trust and confidence in government,” Gierran said.

Gierran’s nomination comes days after PhilHealth workers appealed to Duterte to “stop appointing (people) who are not qualified” to run the state health insurer, as the President should instead appoint “an expert to handle PhilHealth.”

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Gierran takes the place of former PhilHealth chief and retired general Ricardo Morales who resigned last August 26. Duterte earlier relieved Morales from office for health reasons, as he is battling cancer.

If chosen by the PhilHealth board, Gierran will have the crucial task of cleaning up the state-run insurance firm whose officials have been hounded with accusations of rampant corruption.

Marathon hearings at the Senate and the House of Representatives have revealed a laundry list of anomalies involving billions in taxpayers’ money that included the release of funds under PhilHealth’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism, proposed information technology budget, and notorious case rate system.

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Duterte earlier ordered the creation of a task force to investigate alleged corruption in PhilHealth. The task force has the power to conduct lifestyle checks on PhilHealth executives and issue preventive suspension should it find evidence of wrongdoing.

Gierran is also poised to take the helm of PhilHealth as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, with the state insurer paying for thousands of Filipinos’ treatment, testing, and hospitalization.

Gierran left his position at the NBI last February upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65.

Gierran’s stint at the NBI was not without controversy, as Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed former member of the Davao Death Squad, had linked the official to the killing of a man in 2007 who was “fed to crocodiles.”

Gierran denied the claims.

In 2018, Gierran defended the NBI’s flip-flopping on the cyber libel complaint against Rappler. Initial information showed the complaint had been dismissed by the NBI, but Gierran claimed “there was no reversal.”

The NBI forwarded the complaint to the justice department, which recommended the filing of a case against Rappler. A regional trial court has since convicted Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr of cyber libel. – Rappler.com

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.