MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Dante Gierran, the new head of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp, said Tuesday he was "scared, but not cowed" of his new post, and asked the public to give him "a chance" to clean up the state medical insurer following allegations of corruption against its leaders.
Gierran, who retired as chief of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in February, said he “did not apply” to head PhilHealth and instead got the offer through Sen. Christopher “Bong” 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 Ricardo Morales and other officials of pocketing P15 billion in public funds.
“I’m a little bit scared… because I don’t know the operation of PhilHealth,” Gierran told ANC. “I do not know what is public health.”
Gierran said he was with the NBI for 27 years before he was appointed as its director, unlike in PhilHeath where he did not know its insiders.
Duterte "volunteered to reorganize" PhilHealth by transferring some officials to different posts, said Gierran, citing their private conversation on Monday.
Gierran 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.
“That’s illegal. That’s technical malversation,” he said.
A certified public accountant, Gierran said he would also bring to PhilHealth his knowledge on financial management, law, insurance, and investigation.
“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.”
“My job is to restore the trust of the people in the government… I am new. Give me a chance to lead,” he added. “Don’t pre-judge me… If I can’t do my job, I’ll tell my principal.”
Gierran said he would also consult with Morales, who was asked to resign by the President due to his health condition.
“Sir, I’ll talk to you later. I have much to learn from you,” Gierran said.
MORALES DEFENDS DECISIONS
Gierran can get "technical knowledge" of PhilHealth from his aides. "His worry will be navigating the organization," said Morales.
"I’ll be available, I’ll be at his disposal," he said in a separate ANC interview.
Morales said hospitals would have been defenseless from the coronavirus pandemic had he not approved the release of funds before a board resolution could be issued in March.
The allocation was “not arbitrary” and instead, based on hospital's previous claims.
"We made sure that all the hospitals, referral hospitals, in all the regions, all the cities, all the provinces had a prepositioned COVID response fund," Morales said.
Some dialysis and chemotherapy centers in Metro Manila were included in the allocation because their patients have to continue treatment “whether there is COVID or not,” he added.
Morales said he was open to any lifestyle check and has signed a waiver opening up his bank accounts to investigators.
"Let history be my judge," he said.
"I have been trying to change the system. I had plans, but unfortunately… nature has its own schedule," he added.
-- With a report from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News