THE Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) has filed for permanent injunction against the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), preventing it from allowing access to cooperative funds without authorization from the current signatories, Board of Directors (BOD)-appointed General Manager Melchor Licoben, and Board of Directors (BOD) President Esteban Somngi.

A restraining order against BPI issued by Baguio Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7 Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay-Archog on July 25 will lapse on August 14, but Archog is currently hearing arguments related to the BENECO petition for a permanent injunction against the bank.

The ruling came from a case levied by BENECO against BPI when the bank allowed individuals associated with the National Electrification Administration (NEA) to have full access to the coop’s deposits, as well as a breach of contract when unauthorized individuals withdrew P8.5 million from the coop’s accounts.

The court, in its temporary restraining order (TRO) ruled that BPI was being “restrained from allowing any withdrawals by non-signatories from the Beneco account.”

The bank’s action came amid an ongoing legal battle between Beneco and NEA, when the power utility sued the regulatory body for supposedly violating its own rules when it replaced Licoben with Ana Maria Rafael.

Archog says the court is not recognizing either party as the official GM, which is pending court decisions. She stressed that Licoben is currently dispensing the actual functions of GM, including the use of funds to pay obligations.

“Considering further that its operations are actually under the leadership of Engineer Licoben, this Court is constrained to issue a temporary restraining order good for 20 days to restrain defendant from further allowing the withdrawal of funds from what it termed as the Beneco-Licoben account,” Archog said in her ruling.

RTC Branch 60 is meanwhile handling a similar complaint from BENECO against the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), which is accused of releasing P58 million from the Benguet sitio electrification fund of BENECO.