PhilHealth chief says high-ranking exec resigned to 'spend more time with family'

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 06 2020 09:00 PM

MANILA - Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth) President Ricardo Morales on Thursday said one of the firm's high-ranking officials resigned at the height of allegations of irregularities in the agency to "spend more time with his family."

PhilHealth Vice President for Operations Augustus De Villa tendered his "irrevocable resignation" days after telling senators that he would submit documents connected to the agency's alleged plan to procure overpriced information technology equipment.

"He said he wanted to spend more time with his family and I respect his decision and I am grateful for his candor," Morales said in an online press conference. Both are retired military officers.

De Villa did not specify his reason in his resignation letter, but noted that Morales "knows fully well the reason."

"It's not easy to run PhilHealth even in ordinary times, lalo na sa panahong ito na we were subjected to a 10-hour grilling by the Senate," Morales said.

"Talagang nalaspag kami dun. I think nakadagdag 'yun sa tension," he said.

The Senate earlier questioned PhilHealth about its plan to procure allegedly overpriced equipment, and why it disbursed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) funds to dialysis centers and maternity clinics.

Last month, Morales' head executive assistant Etrobal Laborte also resigned, saying he wanted to go back to studying.

But Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that Laborte resigned after he flagged several questionable transactions in PhilHealth.

Morales has repeatedly denied his involvement in the alleged "mafia" inside the state-run insurance firm.

"My family is really begging me to [resign], but there are things that have to be done," he said.

PhilHealth anti-fraud legal officer Thorrsson Montes Keith also resigned last month due to alleged widespread corruption in the agency and unfair job promotion process.