PHILIPPINE Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) senior vice president for operations Augustus de Villa left his post on Thursday, August 6, 2020, amid the investigation into alleged corruption in the agency.

The high-ranking PhilHealth official tendered his “immediate” and “irrevocable” resignation, but assured that he will make himself available for ongoing congressional investigations.

“I hereby tender my irrevocable resignation, effective immediately, from the service of the Philippines Health Insurance Corporation,” De Villa’s resignation letter read.

“The vice-chairman knows fully well the reasons. I briefed him earlier today at his residence in Taguig CIty,” he said.

“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,” he added.

Thorrsson Montes Keith, who had resigned as PhilHealth’s anti-fraud legal officer because of alleged corruption, told a Senate hearing on August 4 that officials who comprise the alleged Philhealth mafia have stolen P15 billion.

“Ang perang winaldas at ninakaw [sa Philhealth] ay humigit kumulang P15 billion. Naniniwala po ako na ang dahilan kung bakit hindi natatapos ang korapsyon sa PhilHealth,” Keith said.

“Naging kultura na po nito, ay ang pagtatalaga ng mga sindikato o ‘mafia’ ng kanilang kasamahan, kasabwat, o kapwa sindikato sa mga matataas na posisyon na nakakatulong sa kanilang iligal operasyon,” he added.

In a statement, PhilHealth president and CEO Ricardo Morales denied the allegations of Keith.

“The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation categorically denies in strongest terms that its senior officials have ‘pocketed’ some P15 billion as alleged by Thorsson Keith during the Senate hearing on August 4, 2020,” Morales said.

Morales said Keith was hired as a job order contractor to do staff work under the Office of the President and is “in no position to discuss office matters being in the corporation for only nine months.”

“His malicious claims not substantiated by evidence were obviously made to malign officers that rejected his ambitions for higher offices which he is not qualified for,” Morales said.

The PhilHealth head said Kieth was referring to the interim reimbursement mechanism (IRM) that was released to a total of 711 health care facilities to assure efficient response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Contrary to reports that hospitals no longer need to account for these funds, the IRM is governed by government accounting and auditing rules, hence, it is subject to liquidation by its recipients. The PhilHealth regional offices have been given the flexibility in the timing of liquidations recognizing the situations in each hospital,” he said.

“It is worthy to note that in recognition of the crucial help that the IRM plays in the fight against Covid-19, the Philippine Hospital Association, in a statement, expressed their support to its implementation in all levels of hospitals (including infirmaries) to help them to financially cope with the demands of increasing its capacity to respond to Covid-19,” he added. (SunStar Philippines)