THE 14 minors rescued from a fake cigarette factory in Bacolod City were sent home to Iligan City in Lanao del Norte Wednesday, August 30.
Pacita Tero, head of the City Department of Social Services and Development (DSSD), said the transportation of the minors was facilitated by their relatives in Muslim community in Escalante City.
The minors received P2,000 each for their fare and allowance from the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) headed by Senior Superintendent Jack Wanky, she said.
Tero said the child labor and human trafficking charges were filed before the City Prosecutor’s Office against the recruiter of the minors Tuesday.
READ: Recruiter faces human trafficking charges
On Friday, operatives of BCPO and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group confiscated several boxes and sacks of fake cigarettes in a factory at Purok Riverside, Barangay Bata where 13 of the 14 minors were employed.
READ: Fake cigarettes, ‘marijuana’ seized in Bacolod
The minors were recruited from Iligan City in June to install antennas in Bacolod, but when they arrived they were assigned to repack the cigarettes in the factory.
Permits and Licensing Division head Stela Rose Rayos had earlier said the fake cigarette factory has no business permit.
Rayos said the building was formerly owned by a sugar manufacturer who sold it to a businessman, who leased out the space.
She said they cannot trace the name of the businessman who rented the space only identified as a certain “Jimmy” who illegally employed 42 workers.
Councilor Caesar Distrito lauded the police operation which led to the rescue of the minors and the confiscation of fake cigarettes.
Distrito said the City Ordinance No. 09-16-784 or the “Anti-fake Cigarette Ordinance of Bacolod City” prohibits the sale, possession, and distribution of non-compliant cigarette products in the city.
The ordinance defines non-compliant cigarette products or fake cigarettes as those that are sold in the domestic market that have no tax stamps as required by the Bureau of Internal Revenue or that carry counterfeit or fake tax stamps.
It stated further that the sale or distribution of one pack of non-compliant cigarette product constitutes one offense and shall be penalized with a fine of P1,000 for the first offense, P3,000 for the second offense, and P5,000 for the third and subsequent offenses while possession of the same is penalized with the fine of P500 for the first offense, P1,000 for the second offense, and P2000 for third and subsequent offenses.
The ordinance also requires that within five working days from the time the fake cigarettes are confiscated it shall be destroyed in a manner that will ensure that it could no longer be consumed.
It also provides that cigarette vendors are required to prominently display and infographic poster in their establishment that informs the public to purchase only compliant cigarette products and to report or turnover to the Bacolod Anti-Smoking Task Force any non-compliant cigarette product that is offered to them by any person, wholesaler, agent, or representative of cigarette manufacturers.