‘Oplan Megashopper’ launched vs fake cigarettes

Law enforcement operatives in Nueva Ecija province renewed the campaign against illicit cigarette trade, specifically the sale of smuggled and counterfeit tobacco products, initially swooping down on stores selling the illegal products in two municipalities on June 27.

        Enforcing the Oplan Megashopper of the  PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the teams headed by P/Maj. Alvin Christopher Baybayin, Officer-in-Charge of the CIDG PFU, Nueva Ecija seized thousands of packs of both smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes.

        The simultaneous raids came on the heels of an earlier ultimatum declared by Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio “Oyie” Umali against illicit traders where he admitted that four of the five cities and 12 more municipalities in the province are “highlighted” to be actively involved in the illegal cigarette trade.

        Umali said that Nueva Ecija has become a haven for illegal manufacturing of fake cigarettes and the rampant selling of these illicit products and therefore the need for authorities to aggressively go after the unscrupulous traders.

        The cities of Cabanatuan, Gapan, San Jose and Munoz and the municipalities of Bongabon, Cabiao, San Antonio, San Isidro, Sta. Rosa, Zaragoza, Guimba, Jaen, Lupao, Pantanbangan, Gabaldon and Cuyapo were identified as areas with active involvement in the illegal cigarette trade.

        Baybayin and his teams conducted separate but simultaneous raids in the towns of San Leonardo and Sta. Rosa where the suspects were caught in the act of selling smuggled and counterfeit or fake cigarettes.

        Smuggled cigarettes are manufactured in other countries and are sneaked into the Philippines while counterfeit or fake items are manufactured in the country imitating local brands, including its packaging and tax stamps. Both items, however are untaxed and illegal.

        Baybayin, made it clear that their June 27 trade enforcement activities were just the beginning of their heightened campaign in consonance with the all-out war declared by Umali against the manufacturing and sale of smuggled and counterfeit cigarettes proliferating in the province and other parts of Central Luzon.

        “This is just the beginning of our elaborate plan to launch more raids and aimed to sustain it further in other areas of Nueva Ecija. We are just finalizing details of our next activities,” the provincial CIDG chief said.

        Initially, CIDG elements raided two stores in the municipality of San Leonardo and arrested both owners of the stores.

        Operatives confiscated 500 packs of counterfeit cigarettes, an imitation of a local legal brand, from Reasonable Good Price Sari-Sari Store in Barangay Diversion, San Leonardo town.

        The raiding team also seized various brands of smuggled cigarettes: 566 packs of Carnival Red, 545 packs of Dunston Blue, 385 packs of Carnival Blue, 195 packs Two Moon Blue, 77 packs of Two Moon Green, 220 packs of R.G.D. Red and 80 packs of R.G.D. Gold.

        The same group of authorities likewise raided the RGP Grocery Store in Barangay Poblacion also in San Leonardo and arrested Thalia Abiog and James Gaoa who were caught in the act of selling illicit cigarettes.

        Confiscated from the RGP Grocery Store were 476 packs of Carnival Blue, 452 packs of Carnival Red, 160 packs RGD Red, 123 packs of Two Moon Blue, 520 packs of Dunston Blue, 100 packs of Golden Bridge Red, 19 packs of HP Blue and 11 packs of HP Red.

        The Nueva Ecija CIDG also raided two stores in Barangay Rizal in Sta. Rosa town. Both branches of Lily Store were owned by a certain Lilia Cajucom.

        Authorities confiscated from the first Lily Store 480 packs of Two Moon Blue, 230 packs of Dunston Blue, 220 packs of HP Red, 170 packs of Carnival Blue, 150 packs of Journey Red and 80 packs of Modern White.

        Seized from another branch of Lily Store were 560 packs of Two Moon Blue, 380 packs of D&B Red, 290 packs of Dunston Blue, 280 packs of HP Red, 210 packs of Two Moon Green, 200 packs of D&B Blue and 80 packs of RGD Red.

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