Manila, the Phillipines - We understand that smuggling damages the economy of the country in which it occurs, lends spurious legitimacy to organised crime and is the direct cause of job losses in legitimate industry, so we have no objection to smuggled liquor being poured down the drain, smuggled cigarettes going up in smoke or smuggled T-shirts being turned into rags for mopping up oil spills.

But that doesn't make it any easier to justify the wanton destruction of fine machinery such as dozens of brand new scooters, a Triumph Bonneville and a BMW F650, just because they came into the country via the back door. There is nothing wrong with them; they've been condemned simply because whoever brought them into the Phillipines didn't pay import duty and taxes on them.

Simply put, they owe the government money. And all governments are always short of money.

Make a deal

So, why not make a deal with the legitimate importers of these machines, to check each over, make sure they comply with local safety regulations and put them on the floor for sale at about the same price as a demo bike or a low-mileage used machine? That way they won't steal sales from 'official' new bikes, the dealer gets a cut equivalent to the profit he would make on a legitimate trade-in and resale, the customer gets a (nearly) new motorcycle at a considerable discount and the government gets the lion's share of the proceeds to use catching more smugglers.

Everybody wins, right?

Everybody except president Rodrigo Duterte of the Phillipines, that is. Duterte is nothing if not a showman; this highly-publicised stunt is intended to send two messages: firstly, to the smugglers, that nobody, not even the government, is going to benefit from smuggled goods, and second, to the voters, that Duterte is not scared of big businiess - legitimate or not.

But that doesn't make it any easier to watch.