The power behind


    “THANK you to Senator Bong Go for his support.”

    So spoke Dante Gierran, the new PhilHealth President and CEO after his appointment, the same man who earlier admitted he knew nothing about the business of PhilHealth.

    ‘Nothing, I am told, gets the approval of the President unless SENSAP gives the thumbs up. No one, I am also told, gets to the President unless cleared by SENSAP.’

    Critics were quick to say that Gierran, former NBI director, was not qualified under the provisions of the law itself, Republic Act 11223 otherwise known as the Universal Health Care Law. The law requires that a PhilHealth president has at least seven years experience in public health, management, finance, and health economics, or a combination of the same.

    But the Philhealth law that spells out the qualifications for a president and CEO aside, what Gierran has is what many others in important positions in this administration have – the backing of the most important senator of the Republic. And while the Senate President may fairly think that this is him, it is, in fact, Christopher Go, former special assistant to the President turned senator, the one person, it is said, whom the President trusts with his life and everything else.

    Nothing, I am told, gets the approval of the President unless SENSAP gives the thumbs up.

    No one, I am also told, gets to the President unless cleared by SENSAP. Someone even told me once that it is SENSAP that has possession of the President’s mobile phones. Which means you can text or call the President all you want, but unless you get past SENSAP then all your calls will just be missed calls and all your texts will remain unread or read but unanswered.

    There’s nothing new or unique in the power of people in the shoes of SENSAP. Leaders, whether in the corporate or political sphere, need someone they can trust to be close to them, to be a filter, a sounding board, a sword and shield even. I’ve seen a number of them in my lifetime. And history is replete with stories of so many more, especially in politics.

    Some are the secret to the leader’s success. Others, the root of their fall.

    And many times when the trusted one is not a blood relation (so true in many cases), friction can occur with members of the family. And when this results in a clash it is NOT always a foregone conclusion that the leader will choose blood over water.

    I’ve been (and enjoyed being) an executive assistant in my lifetime, and the job helped me get to be close to my principals so I could see how someone in such a position could translate the access into even greater power. “Malapit sa kusina” as the saying goes. But successfully doing that would be dependent on the willingness of the principal to let it happen — or on his dependence — as well as on the intent and skill of the trusted aide.

    When both come together then you have a situation like that of SENSAP.

    Sometimes also you can have an “Et tu” moment like that between one famous Roman emperor and his trusted colleague.

    You can also imagine how many slings and arrows are directed at the back of someone like SENSAP. Whether the intent is to damage the President, or bring SENSAP down for a vacancy to be created and filled by someone else, the big “X marks the spot” is what Bong Go carries on him every day for the duration of this administration.

    For better or for worse, the fate of our government hangs in part on the continuing relationships between PRRD and SENSAP Bong Go.

    But for the rest who seek a post in (or advancement within) this administration, Dante Gierran is just the latest in a long line of appointees who has shown you the way.

    No one else matters.