Malacañang on Tuesday said ex-National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director Dante Gierran was the “best choice” to head the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) amid corruption allegations hounding the firm.

“Bakit po siya itinalaga? Ang problema po sa PhilHealth, korapsyon. So naisip po ng presidente ang pinakamagaling na italaga diyan, number one, iyong mayroon nang kakayahan na mag-conduct ng mga imbestigasyon – at ito nga po si Director Gierran,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said on Tuesday.

Gierran’s appointment was announced by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night. He replaced resigned PhilHealth chief Ricardo Morales.

Gierran is an accountant-lawyer. He was the first accountant-lawyer to lead NBI. 

His experience in handling financial records and criminal investigations, Roque said, made him the “best choice” for the job.

“Dahil ang mga krimen na nagaganap po sa PhilHealth ay iyong tinatawag na white collar crimes, e kinakailangan nakakaintindi rin po ng mga financial reports at financial records, mga balance statements,” Roque said.

“Kaya nga po I think Director Gierran is the best choice dahil siya ay CPA at lawyer din po na mayroon pang experience in criminal investigation,” he added.

Roque also refuted claims that Gierran was ineligible for the position due to a provision in the Universal Healthcare Law (UHC).

ABS-CBN reporter Karen Davila posted Section 14 of the UHC on Monday night, which reads: “PhilHealth must be led by a Filipino citizen with ‘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.’”

The Duterte spokesman claimed Gierran’s seven years of management experience was enough.

“Hindi naman po kinakailangan na health economics experience is one of the possibilities pero nag-qualify po siya sa seven-year management experience,” he explained.

In an interview over ANC, however, Gierran admitted he did not know the operations of PhilHealth.

“I’m very scared. I’m scared because I don’t know the operations of PhilHealth…. I do not know about public health,” he said. John Ezekiel J. Hirro