THE authorities are puzzled why a factory for fake cigarettes in Villasis, Pangasinan had to hire 24 Chinese nationals and gave themselves away by weird employment arrangements.
An inter-agency group consisting of agents from the military and the police, the Bureaus of Customs, Internal Revenue and Immigration and even the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency conducted the raid.
The lawmen raided the factory in Barangay Unzad in Villasis and arrested 50 workers, all from the distant town of Bolinao, and not a single one from the town and village where the factory is located.
The raiders said they were acting on reports that there were up to 50 Chinese nationals alternating as overseers in the factory but only 24 were found at the site at the time of the raid.
All the suspects, who do not speak English, were placed under arrest and investigation by the immigration bureau, which may require them to produce their travel documents.
The lawmen did not find any illegal drugs at the factory but they found tons of fake cigarettes stuffed in packs of Marlboro, Fortune, More, Jackpot, Mighty, and Winston packs as well as expensive manufaturing equipment and apparatus.
Antero Prado Jr., Bureau of Customs special assistant, considered the discovery as beyond imagination because the equipment that manufacture the fake cigarettes cost billions of pesos. All of the equipment and other raw materials found at the site are believed to have originated from China.
But the factory did not have a business permit from the local government of Villasis nor a clearance from the barangay where it is located. Barangay officials confirmed that the workers found inside the factory were not locals.
Prado said the customs bureau will also verify whether the factory is connected to similar factories busted in Cagayan de Oro City and Davao City where they earlier seized P25 million and P63 million worth of fake cigarettes, respectively.
A similar raid was undertaken by customs bureau operatives in Pampanga province against another fake cigarette factory, also on Friday.