Medical, financial expertise needed in PhilHealth, COVID response: Pangilinan

September 1, 2020

PUBLIC HEALTH and financial expertise, not on law enforcement, is needed to solve the twin crisis of COVID and corruption that plagues the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. and the government response to the pandemic, Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Tuesday on the appointment of Dante Gierran as PhilHealth president and chief executive officer. 

“I have serious misgivings about the appointment given that we clearly need a more holistic rather than a simplistic law enforcement approach to the cancer confronting PhilHealth in particular and the COVID health crisis in general,” Pangilinan said. 

Gierran, former National Bureau of Investigation director, himself admitted in a television interview Tuesday morning that he has no prior knowledge or experience on public health.

“There is also a question regarding his qualifications considering his lack of experience in the field of public health that Malacañang chose to ignore. His predecessor too had no public health experience and that ended terribly for PhilHealth,” Pangilinan said. 

“Hindi lang malaki ang problema ng PhilHealth at COVID, kailangan pa ng agarang solusyon. Mas makakabuti kung sa isang maalam na sa public health at finance binigay ang posisyon,” he added. 

Section 14 of Republic Act 11223, the law instituting universal health care and reforms in the health-care system, the insurer’s president and CEO “must have at least seven years of experience in the field of public health, management, finance, and health economics, or a combination of any of these expertise.”

At the same time, Pangilinan calls for a transparent audit of PhilHealth’s records to show the public where the P15 billion in PhilHealth funds have gone.

“Bilang institusyon na binubuhay ng mga kontribusyon at subsidiya ng gobyerno, ang mga mamamayan ay may karapatang malaman at makasiguro na kaya nilang lumapit sa ahensya kung sila man ay magkasakit. Sabi nga nila, health is wealth. Dapat magarantiya ito,” Pangilinan said. 

In a Senate hearing, a resigned PhilHealth anti-fraud officer said a syndicate in the state-run health insurer pocketed about P15 billion PhilHealth funds in 2019 alone. 

Pangilinan said he supports a cleansing process in the agency which should hold to account past officials who have stolen the people’s money and who have been remiss in their duties.

“For the sake of PhilHealth and the health of all Filipinos, my serious misgivings notwithstanding, I hope he [Gierran] succeeds where others have failed,” the senator said.