By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
and NITZ ARANCON
THE Bureau of Internal Revenue destroyed over P1 billion worth of illegally manufactured tobacco products, raw materials, and cigarette-making machines in a facility in Barangay Bayabas, this city, yesterday morning.
This came as BIR officials vowed to go after those who are engaging in the manufacturing of consumer goods without paying taxes.
Boxes of cigarettes were shredded while the various cigarette-making equipment were smashed with a heavy-duty jackhammer at the DiGana Waste Management Facility in Zone 6, Barangay Bayabas.
Representatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that played a vital role in the raids and confiscation came to see the destruction of the cigarettes and equipment.
BIR strike team chief Remedios Advincula said the tobacco products were estimated to be worth more than P1 billion, and the machines were estimated to be worth P120 million.
BIR regional director for northern Mindanao Nuzar Balatero said the destroyed products and equipment were confiscated in three separate raids in various locations on May 26, 2018, on the strength of mission orders that allowed law enforcers to conduct raids.
The cigarette factories were located at the Alwana Business Park in Barangay Cugman and in Barangay Poblacion, Villanueva town, Misamis Oriental. These were raided by the NBI and the BIR last year.
The equipment that were destroyed include 10 cigarette packing machines and a cigarette filter machine.
Also destroyed were a box of fake BIR stamps, two boxes of packaging materials, cigarette machine manuals, packaging tapes and various cigarette ingredients.
The BIR said the untaxed cigarettes and equipment were seized by authorities during raids that resulted from a complaint by cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris.
Officials said the seized cigarettes were made to pass off as Philip Morris products.
The BIR said the group behind the illegal cigarette manufacturing in Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro, including Chinese and Taiwanese businessmen, have been charged. Incidentally, not one suspect has been arrested, and BIR officials did not identify any of the suspects for unclear reasons.
“The destruction of these machineries is mandated by law to ensure that these devices can never be used in pursuing illegal manufacturing of cigarettes,” Balatero said.
Advincula said various tax violations, particularly unlawful possession of fake stamps, were already filed at the Department of Justice against the people behind the production of counterfeit tobacco products.
“We want to send the message to our taxpayers who are not registering with the BIR that they are doing this illicit manufacturing of cigarettes. The government is really bent on running against these people who are manufacturing cigarettes without paying excise taxes,” said BIR deputy commissioner Arnel Guballa.
He said, “This is to show the perpetrators that the government is not sleeping on its job to really curb this manufacturing of illegal[cigarettes]
because with this we can stop the production and therefore we can collect the right taxes, because we need these taxes for our ‘Build, Build, Build’ projects.”