PANGASINAN Rep. Amado Espino Jr. and one of his alleged associates have been tagged by two of their purported employees in the sale and distribution of fake Marlboro and Philip Morris cigarettes in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
The identification was made by Lawrence M. Ocampo and Renato M. Alonir, who were arrested by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation in Taytay, Rizal last April 15, 2019 for alleged violation of the provisions of Republic Act No. 8293, or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines, particularly Section 155, which penalizes a person who, without the consent of the owner of the registered mark, uses in commerce any reproduction, counterfeit, copy of a registered mark in connection with the sale, offering for sale, distribution of any goods or services, which such use likely to cause confusion, mistake or to deceive.
NBI agents apprehended Ocampo and Alonir for selling and distributing 12 boxes of fake cigarettes, some of which bore photos of Pogi Espino, a politician apparently running in the gubernatorial race in Pangasinan.
In a two-page sworn affidavit submitted to the NBI before they were released last May 3, Ocampo and Alonir claimed to have been working for a long time for Cong. Espino and his associate Dong Calugay.
According to Ocampo and Alonir, Cong. Espino and Calugay are allegedly the ones running the operation for the delivery and distribution of fake Marlboro and Philip Morris cigarettes in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
“Kami po ang tagahakot at hatid ng mga pekeng sigarilyo ng Marlboro at Philip Morris sa kalakhang Maynila at karatig bayan po nito,” they said.
The two further stated that they were shocked to learn that Cong. Espino and Calugay sent some of their men to their families looking for them, demanding they explain why the two made statements to the NBI implicating them in the selling and distribution of fake cigarettes. They also stated that Espino’s men made a threat to kill them.
“Na aming pinagtataka na kung bakit pinuntahan po ng mga nagpakilala na tao sila ni Boss Dong at Boss Espino ang aming mga pamilya at kami ay pinaghahanap at sinabihang bakit nagsalita sa NBI tungkol sa pag-kakasangkot nila sa iligal na pagbebenta ng sigarilyo at kami ay pinagsabihang papatayin,” Ocampo and Alonir narrated.
The affiants said they now fear for their lives apparently because their employers Espino and Calugay wanted them dead following their arrest by the NBI. “Kami po ngayon ay takot na takot dahil kami ay gusto ng ipapatay ng aming mga Boss na si Boss Calugay at Boss Cong Espino dahil sa pagkakahuli [sa amin ng] NBI,” they said.
Ocampo and Alonir asserted that if anything bad happened to them, they are holding Espino and Calugay responsible since the latter are the ones running the illegal distribution and sale of fake cigarettes in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
“Kung ano man ang mangyari sa amin ay si Boss Dong Calugay . . . at si Boss Cong Espino po ang dapat panagutin dahil sila talaga ang nagpapatakbo ng iligal pagbebenta ng sigarilyo sa kalakhang Maynila at karatig bayan nito,” the affiants stressed.
In November last year, a composite team from the NBI and Bureau of Internal Revenue busted a factory engaged in counterfeiting popular cigarette brands after a raid conducted in Barangay Portic, Bugallon in Pangasinan.
The raiding team from the NBI-Intellectual Property Rights Division and BIR found 28 workers, including 5 Chinese nationals, working at the factory under the name of a certain Dong Calugay and John Does. A highly placed source revealed that one of the John Does is a candidate running for congressman.
Pursuant to a mission order signed by Atty. Arnel Guballa, deputy commissioner of BIR-National Office, the authorities swooped down on a suspected factory of fake cigarettes in Barangay Portic where they seized 3 units of packing machines, 24 filter rods, 134 sacks of cut fillers, packs of foil, packs of cigarettes paper, packs of tipping paper, and counterfeit BIR tax stamps.
The mission order was issued against one Dong Calugay, the name of the man who applied for a barangay permit to operate a piggery that was needed for the issuance of an environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Based on apprehension report, the BIR said the suspects — Calugay and John Does— violated the National Revenue Internal Code of 1997, particularly the lack of registration, possession of unregistered stamps, possession and illegal manufacturing of counterfeit cigarette brands and unregistered manufacturing of tobacco products.
It was found out that operators of the unlicensed cigarettes factory, that was shut down after discovery of untaxed cigarettes worth at least P2 billion, had secured permits to operate as a piggery.
The property, fenced with barbed wire, is hidden from the road by mango trees.