PhilHealth senior exec resigns amid corruption mess in agency

Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) Vice President for Operations Augustus de Villa  has tendered his "irrevocable resignation" amid the ongoing probe into corruption allegations at the state agency. 

De Villa announced his resignation in a memorandum to the PhilHealth board – through PhilHealth Vice Chairman, President, and CEO Ricardo Morales – on Thursday, August 6.

"I hereby tender my irrevocable resignation, effective immediately, from the service of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation," De Villa said.

"The Vice Chairman knows fully well the reasons. I briefed him earlier today at his residence in Taguig City," he added.

De Villa did not cite the specific reason for his resignation, but said he would cooperate in the congressional probes into PhilHealth.

De Villa was among the senior officials accused of corruption at the state health insurer.

Morales said in a virtual press briefing on Thursday afternoon that De Villa cited personal reasons for his resignation.

“It's difficult to be leading PhilHealth at this time…. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family. I respect his decision and I [appreciate] his candor,” Morales said.

In a statement sent to media, Senator Panfilo Lacson said he hopes that De Villa will be “part of an advocacy group within PhilHealth and contribute in exposing more shenanigans based on his personal knowledge.”

“I was observing his demeanor the whole time that PhilHealth officials were being unresponsive and evasive in answering even the simplest questions from the senators. I could sense how uneasy and embarrassed he was while hearing what we all heard,” Lacson said.

Lacson said he admired De Villa’s honesty when he corrected the senator’s remark on tearing the resolution on the “overpriced” IT procurement.

“That said, resigned or not, the chair of the committee of the whole, SP Sotto has already issued a subpoena duces tecum and therefore, General De Villa is under a legal order to present it to the committee in the next hearing,” Lacson added.

In a Senate inquiry on Tuesday, witnesses from PhilHealth itself, including resigned anti-fraud officer Thorrsson Montes Keith, claimed alleged irregularities in PhilHealth procurements, fund disbursements, and doctored financial statements.

Among the questionable items unearthed during the Senate probe were an unspecified number of laptops worth more than P119 million, 43 unspecified "ICT (information and communications technology) resources" worth P40 million, and 3 unnamed projects worth P98 million.

PhilHealth board member Alejandro Cabading said that the proposed 2020 budget of PhilHealth's ICT sector was bloated by at least P734 million. (READ: PhilHealth's proposed ICT budget bloated by P734 million, says official)

During the Senate hearing on Tuesday, Keith said De Villa ripped 6 pages of a procurement document because of alleged anomalies.

De Villa told the Senate committee then that he was trying to recall where the documents are, which prompted Senate President Vicente Sotto III to subpoena them upon the recommendation of Senator Panfilo Lacson.

Keith also alleged that Morales ordered him to "massage" the issue on the supposed overpriced COVID-19 testing kits. (READ: Resigned officer says PhilHealth chief ordered him to 'massage' overpriced testing kits issue)

Morales denied the allegations. – Rappler.com


Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.

image
JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.

image