BAGUIO CITY – The Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) formally filed charges of breach of contract against the Philippine National Bank (PNB) for allowing certain individuals to illegally withdraw money from the account of the electric cooperative.
In an 11-page complaint affidavit filed by BENECO counsel lawyer George Dumawing, Jr., PNB Session road branch under branch manager Ruth de Guzman Mateo allegedly allowed the change in signatories of the Existing BENECO account from general manager Engr. Melchor S. Licoben and board president lawyer Esteban Somngi to purported board president Luke Gomeyac and NEA appointed general manager lawyer Ana Marie Rafael.
Further, BENECO accused the PNB management of refusing to honor all checks issued and signed by Licoben and Somngi without appropriately informing the concerned signatories even for the sake of courtesy.
The complaint stated that transactions which were previously entered into by BENECO with third persons and suppliers were adversely affected due to the alleged refusal of PNB to honor the checks issued in payment of obligations of the electric cooperative to said suppliers unfairly exposing BENECO to possible suits.
Worst, PNB allowed Rafael and lawyer Omar Mayo, the Project Supervisor of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) that was declared persona non grata in Baguio and Benguet, to withdraw the whooping amount of P1 million from the BENECO account using an alleged fake preventive suspension order that was issued against Licoben and 7 members of the Board of Directors.
The complaint underscored that NEA has no power or authority to issue any preventive suspension since what it has is the power to impose suspension as a penalty, only after a decision has been rendered and after the same becomes final and executory, not while the case is still pending.
According to the complaint, PNB through its branch head Mateo allegedly recklessly failed to exercise the prudence expected of all banking institutions as it intentionally refused to protect the interest of its depositors or creditor BENECO despite the fact that the BENECO leadership impasse has been highly publicized not to mention that it is the subject of a congressional inquiry.
Moreover, the complaint alleged that Mateo has allegedly compromised the trust and confidence not only of BENECO but all bank depositors who are now suspicious of the safety of their own bank deposits and that she knowingly and willingly ignored all established traditions of mutual trust and confidence between banks and depositors.
The complaint pointed out that Mateo allegedly omitted the required care and attention that her bank owes its depositors by allowing a stranger to withdraw from an account which it does not actually own and the same is affirmed by the failure of Mateo to give BENECO the courtesy that it deserves by giving Licoben and Somngi a call or a simple text message to clarify matters with him before allowing Rafael to withdraw the aforesaid amount that belongs to the consumers.
Upon learning of the unauthorized withdrawal, Licoben immediately sent Mateo a letter protesting the illegal acts committed in approving the unauthorized withdrawal but instead of apologizing and rectifying the evident error, PNB replied that it needs a court order enjoining it from allowing the withdrawal made by Rafael.
Worst, the complaint alleged that Mateo allowed subsequent withdrawals and fund transfers amounting to a total of over P1.6 million by Rafael between October 26 to November 11, 2021.
The complaint stipulated that PNB obviously breached its obligation to honor the demand for the release of deposits by BENECO when PNB dishonored the check issued by the electric cooperative as under the law, BENECO as the depositor acts as the creator and PNB as the debtor.
It asserted that PNB is under obligation to treat the accounts of depositors with meticulous care, always having in mind the fiduciary nature of the relationship and it breached the said obligation when it failed to inform BENECO of the attempt to change signatories and allowing the same without informing its depositor.
The complaint explained that there was breach when PNB allowed the change in signatories despite the opposition of the original signatories and when it allowed the change of signatories by the mere expediency of letters from people purporting to be from BENECO.
In addition, PNB breached the same obligation when it allowed the withdrawal of funds by persons possessing an unauthenticated copy of a preventive suspension order which was not even received by the concerned parties.
The complaint emphasized that PNB’ acts of allowing the withdrawal transactions without the requisite approvals or without adequate controls, as mandated by existing laws, rules and regulations resulted to unaccounted and undocumented withdrawals to the detriment of the consumers who own the money. By HENT