[Updated 5:48 a.m.] City law enforcement officers apprehended two individuals at a roadblock in Brgy. Luzviminda on Sunday afternoon for allegedly possessing 107 assorted boxes of untaxed cigarettes worth an estimated P4.2 million.

A report from the City Police Station 2 identified the suspects as Abdul Malik Mahajuddin Jayari, 27, the driver of the shuttle van transporting the smuggled tobacco products, and Gulam Mohammad Butungan, 32, both of Bataraza.

They were arrested on April 2 at 2:30 p.m. when police officers manning the checkpoint inspected their vehicle and found the cigarettes. The two were unable to present appropriate documents for their cargoes.

Out of the whole quantity, 10 boxes contained Fort cigarettes, while the remaining boxes had New Berlin cigarettes.

The suspects informed investigators that they were intended for delivery to Puerto Princesa City and in the northern part of Palawan.

In December of the previous year, the House of Representatives gave its approval on second reading to a piece of legislation that would label the illegal sale of tobacco as an act of economic sabotage as it threatens the local tobacco industry.

House Bill 3917 proposes to amend Republic Act (RA) 10845, or the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act of 2016, to make tobacco smuggling, whether produced or unmanufactured, an economic sabotage and a non-bailable violation.

Sen. Lito Lapid introduced Senate Bill 1812 in January of this year to modify RA 10845 to include tobacco and tobacco products in the same category as rice, sugar, vegetables, and basic food items that are protected from smuggling.

The placement of tobacco on the protection list is primarily justified by the money lost or forgone as a result of cigarette smuggling, he said. (with a report from R. Rodriguez)

*** Editor’s Note: This post has been modified to reflect that the smuggled cigarettes recovered are only worth an estimated P4.2 million, not P4.3 million as previously stated.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.