(2nd UPDATE) President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday appointed the former head of the National Bureau of Investigation to head PhilHealth, as the government moved to rid the state-run insurer of corruption at a time when Filipinos look at it as a potential lifeline during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new PhilHealth chief, Dante Gierran, will replace retired Army general Ricardo Morales, who stepped down last week citing ill health. Health Secretary Francisco Duque first confirmed the appointment to reporters.
Several investigations have uncovered alleged corruption in PhilHealth, that is allegedly run by a "mafia."
"Mukhang matapang ito (This is a brave one)," Duterte said of Gierran in his weekly address to the nation late Monday. A government investigation has gathered enough evidence for an indictment on PhilHealth, he said.
"I hope this sad episode in our national life, in our journey towards nation building, will somehow be corrected," he said.
Most recently, Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra tasked Gierran as NBI chief to investigate fake news surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. It was also under his watch that the NBI filed a cyberlibel compaint against news website Rappler.
A self-confessed member of the Davao Death Squad, Edgar Matobato, told a Senate hearing in 2016 that Gierran, during his stint in Davao, once fed a man to a crocodile. Gierran denied the allegation, saying Matobato had ulterior motives. He also cited his decades-long record with the NBI.
Allegations of graft amounting to billions of pesos have cast questions on the viability of PhilHealth, especially at a time when millions of Filipinos under COVID-19 quarantine see it as a financial lifeline. The insurer said pandemic benefits would continue. Duterte earlier said those behind graft would be jailed.