By JOEY NACALABAN
with NITZ ARANCON
AUTHORITIES yesterday raided a warehouse in Barangay Kauswagan, seized over a thousand large boxes of fake Philip Morris cigarettes, and arrested two men.
There were unverified reports that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) hauled off some 1,240 large boxes of counterfeit Philip Morris cigarettes worth some P60 million.
NBI regional director Patricio Bernales however told the Gold Star Daily late in the afternoon that he has yet to be informed about the BIR inventory results, and he could not say how much the catch was worth.
Bernales said a Chinese and another “who can speak Tagalog well” were arrested but he did not know their names at presstime. The passport of one of the suspects, he said, was unreadable to him.
He said representatives from Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc. and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) were present during the raid.
Bernales said Philip Morris executives and the DTI confirmed that the cigarettes were counterfeit.
He said authorities found no evidence of a factory faking cigarette brands in the city.
Bernales said the NBI would wait for a laboratory certificate, affidavits and other documentary evidence needed in filing a case against the suspects.
Hours after the raid and before Bernales spoke to this paper, details remained sketchy, and reporters complained of not getting clear answers from the NBI and BIR.
Broadcaster Michael Bustamante of DxIF-Bombo Radyo said the NBI and BIR gave reporters conflicting statements.
“The NBI said the cigarettes were fake; the BIR said the cigarettes were not fake but the (BIR) stamps were,” Bustamante said.
Jigger Jerusalem, a Philippine News Agency and Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent, also expressed frustration over the unusually slow flow of information from the NBI.
“Dugay kaayo gihatag ang mga detalye. Ingon lang sila nga mga Chinese daw. Dili pud nato mapugos sila paghatag sa information,” said Jerusalem. “Balik-balik gyud nato sila hantod ihatag nila ang mga detalye.”