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Top PhilHealth exec resigns as corruption allegations hound agency

/ 03:42 PM August 06, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A top official of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) has resigned as the agency is hounded by fresh allegations of corruption and subjected to congressional investigations.

PhilHealth Senior Vice President for Operations retired Brig. Gen. Augustus de Villa tendered his “irrevocable resignation” to PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales on Thursday.

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“I hereby tender my irrevocable resignation, effective immediately, from the service of the Philippines Health Insurance Corporation,” read De Villa’s letter, a copy of which was shown to reporters by a source.

De Villa, in the letter, did not elaborate on specific reasons for his decision to resign.

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“The Vice-Chairman knows fully well the reason. I briefed him earlier today in his residence in Taguig City,” he said in his letter, referring to Morales.

Nevertheless, De Villa assured he would cooperate with ongoing investigations into the alleged corruption in PhilHealth being undertaken by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“Be assured that I will make myself available for the ongoing investigations in aid of legislation in both Houses of the Congress of the Philippines,” read the letter.

De Villa was among the PhilHealth officials quizzed by senators during Tuesday’s hearing into alleged anomalies in the state pension fund.

Among allegations of corruption raised during the Senate hearing involved the procurement of alleged overpriced IT equipment; a supposedly questionable release of funds under the corporation’s Interim Reimbursement Mechanism (IRM); and the alleged manipulation of the corporation’s financial status.

In a message to reporters, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said De Villa “must have a very good reason for resigning in the midst of the controversy.”

Sotto, who presided over the hearing, sought for the investigation into the PhilHealth mess through a resolution he filed with Senator Panfilo Lacson.

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Lacson, when asked to comment on De Villa’s resignation, said: “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,” he said in a separate message to reporters.

The senator also expressed hope that De Villa “will be part of an advocacy group within PhilHealth and contribute in exposing more shenanigans based on his personal knowledge.”

On the other hand, Lacson said he admired the PhilHealth official’s “honesty” when the latter corrected the senator’s remark during the hearing after he said he received information that De Villa “tore the pages of the resolution awarding a grossly overpriced procurement of 15 network switches from [P62,000 to P320,000].”

De Villa, during the inquiry, denied tearing up the said documents.

“[He] even voluntarily admitted that he still keeps the document in his possession,” Locsin went on.

“That said, resigned or not, the chair of the committee of the whole, [Senate President] Sotto has already issued a subpoena duces tecum and therefore, Gen de Villa is under a legal order to present it to the Committee [of the Whole] in the next hearing,” he added. [ac]

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