First batch of 5 million packs of seized cigarettes destroyed

Crushing the seized cigarettes for eventual thermal destruction at the geocycle plant.

National government officials led over the weekend the destruction of the first batch of close to five million packs of cigarettes worth an estimated  P142.44 million, all bearing the brands sold by Mighty Corp. that  were seized earlier this year in Mindanao for having counterfeit tax stamps. 

Destroyed through Holcim Philippines Geocycle's  "co-processing "method,  these cigarettes were seized on March 6 this year in a joint operation done by a composite team from the Bureaus of Internal Revenue (BIR) and of Customs (BOC) on a warehouse leased to Mighty Corp. in General Santos City.

According to Holcim Philippines, this method, which ensures the total thermal destruction of waste materials, reduces toxic gas emissions and land and groundwater pollution. 

The BIR and BOC have stepped up their joint search and seizure operations of illicit cigarettes and other products in line with President Duterte's all-out drive against smuggling and tax evasion.

“The decision to destroy these confiscated cigarettes came easily. We imposed sin taxes on these products in part to protect the health of our people. It would be wrong to release these products to the market,” said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III in his remarks read for him at the event by Assistant Secretary Kelvin Lee of the Office of the Executive Secretary.  

Dominguez stressed that the destruction of the seized cigarettes “is intended to deliver this message: tax evasion does not pay. We will confiscate the offending products and destroy them. No one will profit from the commission of a crime.”

Some 9,496 mastercases or 4,748,000 packs of cigarettes of Mighty Menthol 100s, Marvels Menthol, Marvels FK and King Full Flavor brands—all manufactured by Mighty Corp.--were destroyed beginning today (November 26) at the Holcim Philippines Incorporated Geocycle compound in Bunawan, Davao City. 

According to the BIR, the estimated deficiency excise tax liability of the seized cigarettes, including penalties, would have amounted to P1.39 billion.

The BIR said the warehouse where the seized cigarettes belonged to Sunshine Cornmill Corp. managed by Rosie and Alicia Liang.

Aside from Lee, among those also present at the event were  BIR Assistant Commissioner Teresita Angeles who heads the bureau’s Large Taxpayers’ Service (LTS);  BIR Davao Regional Director  Nuzar Balatero; BIR Revenue Region No. 18 - Koronadal City Regional Director Esmeralda Tabule; and Jeper Ylagan  senior environmental management specialist  of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). 

Also at the event were Alejandro Cenon Paje, the senior technical officer of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines; Cyril Lubaton of Japan Tobacco International (JTI) and representatives of the soon-to-be defunct Mighty Corp. 

The destruction of all the 4,748,000 million packs will take place in batches because of their enormous quantity, further underscoring the scale of tax fraud attempted by the erring firm.  About eight tons of cigarettes  per day will be destroyed. 

The confiscated tobacco products constituted the evidence in one of the three complaints filed by the BIR last May against Mighty Corp. before the Department of Justice  for the use of fake tax stamps.

Besides this batch,  the government is also set to destroy 66,245 cases of Mighty cigarettes confiscated in San Simon, Pampanga, another 163,183 cases in San Ildefonso, Bulacan and other smaller stockpiles confiscated in Tacloban and Cebu. These seized cigarettes were also used as evidence in the complaints filed before the DOJ. 

The complaints against Mighty had since been withdrawn after the company, with main headquarters in Bulacan, offered last July to settle its tax liabilities with the government for P25 billion and shut down its operations.

Mighty Corp. subsequently sold its assets to JTI to help pay off its tax arrears.

Dominguez has said the government stands to gain over P30 billion in additional revenues from Mighty’s tax settlement once the value-added tax from the sale and other fees are paid. He said this makes the tax settlement the largest sum ever paid by a single corporate entity in the country’s history.