The arrest of 84-year-old Leonardo Flores of Asingan town, Pangasinan in Luzon revolted several netizens, who labeled the old man’s capture as not fair. They pointed out that former first lady Imelda Marcos is not yet in jail despite her Sandiganbayan graft conviction.

The news of Flores’ arrest last week spread like wildfire after his mug shot was published on the Asingan police’s Facebook wall. Without the social media post, the octogenarian’s story would not be known, and netizens would not be able to pitch in for his P6,000 bail.

The old man, now known as Lolo Narding to netizens, was caught after the police served last week the warrant of arrest issued by a court for a petty crime, for allegedly stealing mangoes from the land owned by his neighbor Robert Hong.

Flores reportedly harvested mangoes from Hong’s property in April 2021, and the latter demanded P10,000 from the old man as payment for allegedly stealing 10 kaing of mangoes.

Asingan police chief said Flores claimed he just picked the mangoes because he was the one who planted the tree when he was young. However, Hong claimed that the mango also belongs to him as it stands on land owned by him.

Hong was reported as saying that he would drop the case against Flores if the old man would issue a public apology and admit he stole from them.

However, reports came out that Flores had apologized to Hong not once, not twice, but thrice at the barangay hall where village officials tried to settle the matter so it would not go to court, which in the Philippines’ legal system is burdened by so many cases. The matter was not settled at the barangay level and Hong eventually charged Flores, and the complaint prospered for court trial.

Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia has suggested to settle the dispute through an amicable agreement or “a desistance of the charge filed given the circumstances of the complaint and condition of the accused.”

Stealing is never right. Had theft been condoned in the Philippines, the country could be littered with thieves and everyday stealing could be the way of life.

This is why the Philippines has laws against theft and other misdeeds, especially against unlawful acts commonly committed by some government officials like graft and corruption.

Despite the country’s laws against theft, corruption and other similar crimes, there are some well-connected individuals, business people and public officials who have such an insatiable thirst for wealth that they resort to unlawful acts just to fatten their already deep pockets. Greed indeed is a bottomless pit.

The arrest of Leonardo Flores is the latest testament of a timeworn truth in Philippine society: It is easier to send the poor to jail than the rich and the powerful.