Malacañang defends Duterte’s choice for PhilHealth chief: Gierran a ‘financial expert’

Pia Ranada
Malacañang defends Duterte’s choice for PhilHealth chief: Gierran a ‘financial expert’

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on August 31, 2020. TOTO LOZANO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO


Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque says experience in public health is just one of the possible fields of expertise that can qualify a person to become PhilHealth chief

Malacañang defended former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Dante Gierran from assertions that he is unqualified to lead the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said in a virtual press briefing on Tuesday, September 1, that the PhilHealth CEO and president does not need to be a health expert.

“One of the requirements is management experience. Of course, Director Gierran already has 7 years management experience. It doesn’t have to be health experience. It’s just one of the possibilities and he qualified under the 7-year management experience,” Roque said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Section 14 of the Universal Healthcare (UHC) Law states that the PhilHealth board cannot recommend a president and CEO unless he or she has “at least 7 years of experience in the field of public health, management, finance, and health economics, or a combination of any of these expertise.”

Gierran on Tuesday admitted not knowing much about public health.

Roque, who was among the authors of the UHC law when he was a congressman, also said Gierran can be considered an expert in finance because of his background as a certified public accountant.

“He is a financial expert because he is a CPA. That’s the difficulty with ordinary lawyers like me. We know how to find evidence, how to litigate in court but when it comes to financial statements, we don’t understand them,” said the Duterte spokesman.

Understanding financial statements and documents is indispensable to flushing out corruption in the state insurer, something which Duterte has ordered Gierran to focus on during his time in PhilHealth.

“Because the crimes committed in PhilHealth can be called white collar crimes, the chief needs to understand financial reports, balance statements, so Director Gierran is the best choice because he is a CPA and a lawyer who has experience in criminal investigations,” said Roque.

Malacañang expects PhilHealth to be cleansed of corruption in the remaining years of the Duterte administration.

Gierran not even PhilHealth board member

But apart from the requirement of 7-year experience in relevant fields, the UHC law also clearly states the procedure for choosing a PhilHealth CEO and president.

According to Section 14, the choice of CEO and president must be “upon the recommendation” of the PhilHealth Board of Directors to the President and the chosen person must come from the Board’s non ex-officio members.

But Duterte did not appear to abide by this rule, choosing to publicly announce his choice of Gierran who is not even a member of the PhilHealth board.

Roque admitted not knowing if the Board recommended Gierran.

“We don’t know if there is such a recommendation,” said the spokesman.

Top executives of government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) are usually elected by their respective boards even if it is the President who appoints all board members.

This is because GOCCs are structured as companies and not departments or agencies.

A union of PhilHealth workers had expressed disappointment of Duterte’s choice of Gierran after calling on the Chief Executive to appoint qualified persons to run the state insurer.

PhilHealth is critical to the Duterte administration’s efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and implement the universal healthcare law.

A series of congressional hearings and an executive branch probe on various anomalies led to the suspension of its top executives. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at