BACOLOD CITY: Authorities raided a warehouse here used to repack cigarettes with packages bearing fake tax stamps and rescued 41 workers, 14 of them minors, from Lanao del Norte.
Supt. Ronaldo Palomo, city police deputy city director for administration, told Radyo Bandera-Bacolod that the Maranao workers are from Balo-i, Lanao del Norte.
They came to Bacolod hoping for a better life as the situation has become difficult in their province because of the Marawi conflict, Palomo said.
The workers, including the minors aged 12 to 17 years old, also complained they were underpaid and not allowed out of the factory without permission.
Palomo said about 300 boxes of Mighty and Marvel cigarettes, machines, packed tea bags and dried tobacco were seized from a warehouse in Barangay Bata and its extension in Barangay Taculing, also in Bacolod, on the strength of a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) mission order.
Authorities confiscated numerous fake tax stubs that cost P40 each, Palomo added.
A police report said the caretaker identified the warehouse owner in Barangay Bata as “Andy Chua,” however, the lesee is a certain “Jimmy Chua.”
Police also seized small tea bags that appeared to contain dried marijuana leaves and acetone, a component of shabu which were turned over to the crime laboratory for examination.
The 41 workers were turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development and may be sent back to their homes in Lanao.
Meanwhile, charges of human trafficking will be filed against the factory owner and caretaker while the BIR will file separate charges for the illegal operation of the cigarette factory.
EUGENE Y. ADIONG