FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD Empoy was pedaling his bike when he found an open vehicle parked on V. Urgello St. in Cebu City last Tuesday afternoon.
Little did he know it would cost him detention for the first time in his life.
Empoy (not his real name) was caught stealing a bag that contained P150,000 cash from the back seat of the van, owned by a businessman, at 1:30 p.m. A nearby closed-circuit television camera recorded the act.
He was arrested with his alleged adoptive mother in Sitio Quijano, Barangay Calamba four hours later.
The bag was found kept in a sack hidden in a basket of used clothes in the house of Dyna Quan, who insisted she had no idea the bag she received from the child contained money.
Chief Insp. David Señor, acting chief of the Cebu City Police Station 2, said only P106,000 in cash was recovered.
He said the missing P44,000 must have been carted away by Quan’s husband Rommel, 44, who was not in the house during the search.
Señor said they located the suspect’s home immediately because Empoy had been arrested for theft cases before but was never jailed because he is a minor.
During his arrest, Empoy told the police he was 13 years old. A birth certificate later arrived, showing that the boy was already 15.
Republic Act (RA) 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 states that only offenders below 15 can’t be prosecuted and imprisoned in any government jail.
Those 15 to 18 years old, on the other hand, shall be free from criminal liability and may be subjected to an intervention program under the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), unless there is proof the minor acted with discernment.
“He’s detained while we’re waiting for a certificate of discernment coming from the DSWD,” Señor told Sun.Star Cebu.
Quan, on the other hand, will also be facing a case of child abuse, under RA 7610, aside from the theft cases the police will file against her and her husband, who is at large.
Businessman Joselito Lano, 47, had parked his van outside an establishment on V. Urgello St., a brief walk from Osmeña Blvd., to buy something.
He said he did not lock the door because there were two security guards standing near the parking area.
When he came back, though, his bag was missing.
He called his relatives at home to ask them if he had left the bag but they told him they had seen him put the bag in his car.
Lano rushed to the Police Station 2 on Osmeña Blvd. to report the incident.
The authorities later viewed the CCTV footage, which showed that a boy alighted from his bicycle, rushed to the van when the security guards turned their backs and grabbed a bag from the vehicle.
“Di ko katuo nga ingon ato sa edad niya ba, ngilngig na siya manguha. Sa iyang nawong, dili siya imat nga bata, pution siya nga mestisohon (I was appalled how adept he was at stealing. He didn’t look like a poor kid because he was clean-looking),” Lano said.
He said he is willing to file criminal complaints against the Quan couple.
Señor said they received reports that the couple would instruct the boy to loiter around the boulevard and bring home something of value.
The boy would then be given a meager share, according to Señor.
Quan, for her part, denied she adopted Empoy. She said the boy would only visit their place at times.
Empoy, however, said he has been with the couple since 2012.
He said he had been to a drug pusher’s home in Barangay Ermita before, but he left because he was often tortured by the man living there.
He said he has long left his parents and six siblings in Barangay Pahina Central since he became addicted to sniffing rugby, an adhesive paste, with his friends.
He denied it was the couple who influenced him to steal, saying he learned the tricks from a friend in Pahina Central before.
“Di man ko nila sugoon, ako ra ma’y mobuhat ana (They don’t command me, I do it of my own will),” he said.
He recalled that he rushed to the house of Quan after stealing the bag. He told her to keep it.
Lano said the incident made him learn one thing: “Di na gyod magkompyansa, bisag naa pa’y guard, i-lock gyud ang sakyanan (I must not be complacent again. I should lock my van’s doors even when there are guards).”