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MANILA, Philippines – Former Palace Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr denied his successor’s allegations that there was an “overprinting” of liquor and cigarette tax stamps in the state printing agencies – the National Printing Office and Apo Production Unit, Incorporated (APO).
Secretary Martin Andanar earlier said that the government is investigating the “overprinting” of cigarettes and liquor revenue stamps, which smugglers supposedly use to enter the local market.
While Andanar claimed an insider is responsible for the illegal activity, he neither gave details nor evidence to support his claims.
“We have to fix this. I have ordered an audit…to show the public that this has been happening. It’s already happening before we came in,” said Andanar in a media interview.
Asked by Rappler whether there is proof to his claims, Andanar said: “This is as reported to me by BIR.”
This did not sit well with Coloma, his predecessor and former professor at the Asian Institute of Management.
“As Communications Secretary, it is his duty to first verify the accuracy of reports being fed to him before he discusses these publicly,” Coloma said in a statement on Monday, July 11.
“It is my humble opinion that Secretary Andanar may have prematurely affirmed the insinuations of alleged wrongdoing even absent the presentation of clear, concrete, and convincing proof in a fair and impartial fact-finding inquiry,” Coloma added.
The NPO and APO, printers of accountable and sensitive government forms including passports and sin tax seals, are both under the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) previously headed by Coloma and now by Andanar.
The NPO prints the liquor stamps while the APO Security Printing Plant in Malvar, Batangas produces the revenue stamps for cigarette products.
Stringent processes vs fraud
Coloma claimed “stringent quality, process, and security control measures” were put in place in the agencies to make tampering difficult.
Coloma said the printing of liquor stamps in the NPO is “closely supervised by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.” He explained that at least two BIR representatives directly supervise the entire process, from printing all the way to delivery and receipt of stamps.
The APO plant, he added, has “an even more stringent process” for the printing of revenue stamps for tobacco products.
In fact, Coloma said, the BIR recognizes the extra security features provided by APO.
Citing General Manager Jaime Aldaba, Coloma said APO and the BIR are in the process of finalizing an agreement so the former can cover the printing of both liquor and cigarette tax stamps. This is because the APO stamp, he said, is “better equipped” to follow the Internal Revenue Stamp Integrated System (IRSIS) formulated by the BIR. – Rappler.com