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Palace defends Gierran despite lack of public health experience

The new chief of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) admitted Tuesday he has no experience with health services, having worked for 27 years in the National Bureau of Investigation, which he headed from 2016 to 2020.

“I’m a little bit scared… because I don’t know the operation of PhilHealth,” Gierran said during an interview on ANC. “I do not know what is public health.”

Aside from his long career in the NBI, Gierran is also a certified public accountant, and said he would bring to PhilHealth his knowledge of financial management, law, insurance, and investigation.

He said he would create his own management committee and examine PhilHealth's financial statements, including its fund release to hospitals, which in some instances came before a board resolution.

“My job is to restore the trust of the people in the government… I am new. Give me a chance to lead,” Gierran said. “Don’t pre-judge me… If I can’t do my job, I’ll tell my principal.”

Gierran is replacing Ricardo Morales, who resigned from PhilHealth last week following allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Morales said Gierran can get "technical knowledge" of PhilHealth from his staff.

"It’s going to be a learning experience, getting to know the job, know the company, know the history of the organization, know the people inside," Morales said in a separate ANC interview.

“His worry will be navigating the organization,” Morales said.

Malacañang defended the appointment of Gierran, citing his experience in management, accountancy, and criminal investigation.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Gierran, a lawyer and who served in the government for decades, was qualified and the “best choice” to head PhilHealth.

Several sectors questioned the designation of Gierran as new PhilHealth chief because of his lack of experience and knowledgeof public health.

But Roque, who authored the universal health coverage bill, said the former NBI chief is qualified as he has already exceeded the required seven-year management experience.

“Gierran’s experience as a criminal investigator and as a certified public accountant will help weed out corruption within PhilHealth,” Roque said in his regular press briefing.

“We can expect that Gierran can clean PhilHealth until the term of President Duterte,” he said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday gave his vote of confidence to Gierran, saying that he is the right man to cleanse the agency of corruption.

“Former NBI Director Gierran’s legal and accounting background, his well-known investigative skills, administrative abilities, and fiscal prudence make him fit for the PhilHealth top position, and equip him well to pursue the cleansing process and reformation at PhilHealth to their logical conclusion,” Guevarra said, in a text message.

The Task Force PhilHealth is focusing its probe on the so-called centers of fraud in the agency.

These include the agency’s information technology system, the legal sector, the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) and financial management.

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said the task force will also take into consideration the findings and conclusion of the Senate Committee of the Whole.

“It has closely monitored the proceedings at both houses of Congress and has taken note of the matters taken up in both legislative investigations,” Perete said.

Gierran said he will implement a reorganization in the state insurer and examine its financial state as part of his short-term goals.

“One is the reorganization. I go with the President. Number two, I will look into the financial conditions of PhilHealth,” Gierran said in an interview on ANC on Tuesday.

Gierran said that officials under probe will face six-month suspension with pay while other workers can be transferred to different agencies, as employees are protected by the Civil Service Law.

“There were allegations in the past that PhilHealth will not survive [past] two years. So I have to know how much money PhilHealth has as of the moment,” he added.

Gierran said he will run after people or companies who have unsettled accountability to revive the funds of PhilHealth.

He also said the IRM was tantamount to technical malversation.

Gierran said he was “scared” but not “cowed.”

“I would like to succeed… I am scared, but I am not cowed.” Gierran said.

“I want to lead people. If you lead people, you set yourself as an example,” Gierran said.

Gierran, who retired as chief of the NBI in February, said he “did not apply” for the job as head PhilHealth.

He said he got the offer through Senator Christopher Go, former longtime aide of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Gierran said he would take on a “gargantuan job” to clean up PhilHealth, after whistleblowers accused his predecessor and other officials of pocketing P15 billion in public funds.

PhilHealth workers and some regional vice presidents on Tuesday expressed optimism that Gierran can resolve the issues on corruption hounding the state insurer.

PhilHealth Davao regional vice president (VP) Dennis Adre, in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV, said that the VPs in the '”conscience bloc” are open to working with Gierran.

“We welcome the appointment of a lawyer and a certified public accountant,” Adre said.

In a separate interview, PhilHealth Workers for Hope, Integrity, Transparency, and Empowerment vice president Bryan Jabay admitted that they were not expecting President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint someone outside the board.

Morales urged his successor to “stay healthy” as the work is stressful.

President Rodrigo Duterte last week asked the cancer-stricken Morales to resign due to his health.

This, after whistleblowers in Congress accused him and other officials of corruption.

“I wish I did not get sick,” Morales said during an interview on ANC. “The stress of the job also just caused some physical stress,” he said.

Topics: Philippine Health Insurance Corp , Ricardo Morales , Dante Gierran , Rodrigo Duterte , Harry Roque , Markk Perete
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