Restrained optimism

Restrained optimism

The appointment this week of CPA lawyer Dante Gierran as head of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), which had come under full scrutiny by Congress and the public following widespread allegations of corruption within, allows us to breathe some hope although that is pretty much restrained. President Rodrigo Duterte affixed his signature on the appointment of Gierran, director of the National Bureau of Investigation from 2016, when Duterte became President, until he retired last February, during his meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force Against Emerging Infectious Diseases which was aired nationwide on Monday.

Duterte appears to have strong faith in Gierran, who had his accountancy course and law degree in Mindanao schools, to whom he gave instructions that during the last two years of his term as President he should fight corruption. Duterte had said previously he wanted a reshuffle of the different regional offices within the next two or three days this week, which meant the NBI and PhilHealth. The President has said it aptly that he wanted the regional vice presidents removed, whether they were performing at par or in parity with the other good ones, emphasizing that if officials are there for a long time, the element of familiarity can hardly be removed. The trepidation over Gierran’s appointment is underlined by his admission that he has no experience in public health, which certainly Duterte should have seen in the first place. Under Section 14 of the Universal Healthcare Law, the PhilHealth board cannot recommend a president and CEO unless the appointee 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 (fields of) expertise.”

As NBI director for almost four years, Gierran saw high-profile controversies
when, during the initial months of his term, self-confessed Davao Death Squad former member Edgar Matobato linked him to a 2007 killing — denied by Gierran — of a man who was allegedly fed to crocodiles. During his term, Gierran also had some switchover on the cyber libel complaint against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Reynaldo Santos Jr. The bureau first dismissed the complaint but eventually recommended the filing of the case — a scenario where Gierran said there was no reversal. We note that if Gierran is elected by the PhilHealth board, Gierran will inherit the spotlight from Ricardo Morales who resigned last week due to health reasons — read this: he is undergoing treatment for lymphoma, a cancer that affects the lymph nodes.

On Tuesday, a day after the appointment was heard in a nationwide broadcast, in an interview with ANC’s Headstart, Gierran — we give this to him for his forthrightness — that he was scared because he did not know the operations of Philhealth. Worse, he said “I don’t know (anything) about public health, I don’t know about that.” But the President’s appointment should give him the strength to challenge the so-called underworld in PhilHealth, which has unashamedly, if the hearings in Congress were to be believed, and they appear they must be, and reduce the members to their proper size, reached unbelievable heights of ‘greed with terrible proportions’ as we as a nation suffer in a time of pandemic which not one from this generation had seen the likes of. Better yet, recommend the filing of appropriate charges against all these officials down to those who had any knowledge and unabashedly joined the bandwagon of those who defrauded PhilHealth by institutionalizing fake diseases, fake members, among others the human minds of these disgusting
officials had been capable of directing. Morales’ resignation came in the middle
of investigations by Congress over the alleged well thought out corruption
within the state health insurance corporation, aggravated by widespread
allegations of the existence of a mafia inside the agency, created in 1995.

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