Open selling of smuggled cigarettes in many parts of Mindanao has prompted Customs, revenue and police authorities to renew their drive against untaxed brands.
According to these authorities, these cigarettes are displayed and sold across thousands of stores in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon, Lanao del Sur and Misamis Occidental and Zamboanga Peninsula and Cotabato region.
In a statement, they warned that any person possessing or selling smuggled or fake cigarettes will be charged accordingly:
1. Unfair Competition, under Section 155 in relation to Section 168, 169 and 170 the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines with the corresponding penalty of imprisonment from 2 to 5 years and a fine of P50,000.00 to P200,000.00;
2. Republic Act 7394 or the Consumer Protection Act, with penalty of imprisonment from 1 year to 5 years, or a fine of P5,000.00 to P10,000.00, or both; and
3. Pertinent provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code with the maximum penalty of imprisonment for 12 years and fine of P100,000.00.
Cigarettes smuggled into the country are subject to outright confiscation by local authorities.
Retailers, distributors and importers involved in the sales of smuggled or counterfeit cigarettes will also be held liable for tax violations and subject to criminal prosecution pursuant to the laws cited above.
Retailers are reminded by the authorities to purchase cigarette products only from legitimate sales personnel to ensure that the products carry mandated tax stamps.
Late last year, authorities seized and destroyed numerous caches, and prosecuted individuals engaged in the sale of these illicit products in various parts of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Nueva Ecija and Cebu.
The public is advised not to buy these smuggled cigarettes sold cheaply in sari-sari (variety) stores and public markets at around P18 to P20 per pack since these are unregistered, thus avoiding tax obligations to the government.
Because of the annual increase in excise tax, the cheapest mandated price per pack is currently at P25.
The smuggled and fake cigarette brands have been identified as Marboro, Winston, Mighty, Marvels, Far Star, Fort, American Legend, Union, Navy and Gudang Garam manufactured in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia.