By Chino S. Leyco
The Department of Finance (DOF) has directed the government’s two main tax agencies to track down manufacturers of counterfeit tobacco products and their possible cohorts in government.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III believes there are people in the Bureaus of Customs (BOC) and of Internal Revenue (BIR) who had a role in allowing the entry of unlicensed cigarette-making machines into the country.
For this reason, Dominguez ordered Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña and BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay to disable the confiscated machines so that they would no longer be usable.
Dulay and Lapeña were also told to find out how the machines used to manufacture the fake cigarettes uncovered in recent operations in Luzon and Mindanao were able to enter the country undetected by authorities.
“I want to hit them with everything you’ve got, the Customs and the BIR, and get to the bottom of this,” Dominguez told officials of the two bureaus during a recent Executive Committee (ExeCom) meeting of the Department of Finance (DOF).
Dominguez issued the directive after the BIR reported that its strike team had raided several warehouses storing smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes in Malabon and Manila. The raids yielded a total of 531 mastercases of fake and smuggled cigarettes bearing various brands.
BOC operatives, meanwhile, had seized counterfeit cigarettes and bogus tax stamps worth R500 million in three warehouses in Bulacan.
The BIR strike team also seized four unlicensed cigarette making machines, six cigarette-packing machines and a filter-making machine along with fake cigarette tax stamps inside the San Simon Industrial Park in Pamoanga.
The bureau reported to the finance chief that the machines were smuggled into the country.
Two factories in Cagayan de Oro, meanwhile, yielded unregistered cigarette making machines, packaging machines and a filter making machine during recent operations also conducted by the BIR strike team.
Filter rods, tipping paper, cigarette paper, cut filters, inner liners pack and wrap film, plug wraps, acetate tow and other materials used to manufacture cigarettes were also seized during the raids.
The BIR informed Dominguez that “as instructed, the machines will be properly disabled to prevent their further usage.”
“You better trace where these machines came from,” Dominguez said. “Who are the people behind this? How did these machines get in?”
In response to Dominguez’s order, Customs Deputy Commissioner Edward James Dy Buco, who was present at the ExeCom meeting, said the Customs bureau “will have the entry of these machines investigated.”