Operatives of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and officials of three Misamis Oriental local government units (LGUs) conducted simultaneous raids against retailers selling smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes and confiscated from them voluminous packs of illicit cigarettes openly sold at the public markets on Friday, September 15.
The raids against distributors and sellers of smuggled cigarettes were conducted in the cities of Gingoog and El Salvador and the municipality of Balingasag as ordered by PNP Provincial Director Colonel Choli Jun Caduyac following a congressional public disclosure of Rep. Yevgeny Vicente “Bambi” Emano of the 2nd District of Misamis Oriental regarding the proliferation of illicit cigarette selling in the province.
Congressman Emano raised the alarming proliferation of illicit cigarettes in Mindanao, specifically in his district which he said, rendered thousands of his tobacco farmer constituents jobless at a recent budget hearing of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) at the House of Representatives.
Emano asked PNP chief General Benjamin Acorda on the police involvement against smuggling. “I am hoping to bring this to the attention of the DILG and PNP. The challenge for our tobacco farmers is they spent so much in inputs and labor and yet the proliferation of illicit cigarettes had been present not only in my province but in the city of Cagayan de Oro. (CDO)”
The legislator showed photos of various brands of smuggled cigarettes, were taken only last week in CDO and in Misamis Oriental, being sold at P45 per pack in the public places, compared to the legitimate cigarette commonly sold at P160 per pack.
“The audacity of selling it in a market , those illegal brands and by reams and in front of public markets. It will certainly, definitely affect my tobacco farmers,” Emano lamented.
The PNP chief who was present during the public hearing committed to include in the agency’s priority concerns, to go after the selling of illegal cigarettes nationwide and ordered all PNP provincial directors to submit reports detailing their accomplishments.
“Can I get the commitment of the PNP of more operations to apprehend, jail and whatever they will do to hopefully stop those illegal cigarette trade and which are actually sold also in the islands of Mindanao,” Emano said.
Acorda replied “The PNP under my leadership gives our full commitment (to fight against smuggling and sale of illegal cigarettes). We will consider that as one of our primary considerations.”
The store raids in Misamis Oriental were conducted by police enforcers and they were joined by representatives of the provincial Treasurer’s Office and the provincial Health Office of the three LGUs.
Caduyac’s specific directives for the raiding teams focused on ambulant vendors and retailers in the public markets of Gingoog City, El Salvador City and the Balingasag town and to confiscate their illegal goods.
No arrests were made yet since the operations were its first and instead the sellers were given stern warning to stop their illegal activities. But second offenders will be apprehended.
Caduyac warned illegal cigarette traders in Misamis Oriental that more raids will follow with sustained vigilance and more widespread to get rid the province of the rampant illicit cigarette trade.
Gingoog City composite raiding teams confiscated two master cases of assorted brands of smuggled cigarettes from an ambulant vendor inside the supermarket while operatives at the Balingasag public market were able to seize 223 packs and 36 sticks of assorted illicit cigarette products.
The contingent at the El Salvador City trade enforcement operations swooped down on the following stores: Jocelyn Dagooc Store, April Acut Store, Marilou Behiga Store and Carlita Filoteo Store and confiscated assorted brands of smuggled cigarettes.
Seized illegal brands from Jocelyn Dacooc Store were Delta, Modern and Champion White while brands such as Modern Red and Cannon Menthol were confiscated from Carlito Filoteo Store. Modern Red packs were seized from Marilou Behiga Store.
Operatives confiscated voluminous brands of smuggled cigarettes from April Acut Store such as Modern Red, Delta White, Delta Red, Black Hawk Red, New Berlin Red, Blast Red, United Red and Cannon Menthol.