41 workers rescued from illegal cigarette factory in Bacolod
BACOLOD CITY — Forty-one workers, 14 of them minors, from an area near Marawi were rescued on Friday from a factory allegedly making cigarettes whose packages bear fake tax stamps in Barangay Bata, Bacolod City, Friday.
On Saturday, Supt. Ronaldo Palomo, deputy city director for administration of the Bacolod City Police Station, said the rescued workers – who are Maranaoans from Balo-i, Lanao del Norte – said they came to Bacolod hoping for a better life with times difficult at their place because of the conflict in Marawi.
The workers said they were underpaid and not allowed out of the factory without permission.
The police were confirming the identity of the warehouse owner, identified by the caretaker as “Andy Chua.” But a receipt of the lease of the warehouse bears the name “Jimmy Chua.”
The police are preparing to file a complaint for human trafficking against the owner of the factory and the caretaker, Palomo said.
He said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) would file separate charges for the illegal operation of the cigarette factory.
According to Palomo, the workers said they were repacking products in Bacolod. They were restricted to the working area and were not allowed to enter other parts of the warehouse.
About 300 boxes of different kinds of cigarettes, machines, packed tea bags, and raw materials, such as tobacco, were seized at the warehouse in Barangay Bata and an extension in Barangay Taculing, also Bacolod, on the strength of a BIR mission order, Palomo said.
The BIR mission order was issued in relation to the National Internal Revenue Code, he said.
During the raid, authorities confiscated numerous fake tax stubs that cost P40 each, Palomo said.
He said they also seized small tea bags that appeared to contain suspected dried marijuana leaves and the acetone, a component of shabu, that were turned over to the Crime Laboratory for examination. They called in the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) during the raid, he added.
The BIR had already ordered the closure of the warehouse pending further investigation, Palomo said.
The 41 rescued were turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for processing. /atm
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