A 21-year-old supermarket worker has been locked up for more than a week after stealing a 31.50-peso can of corned beef.
Paul Matthew Tanglao admitted to the crime, saying he was broke and hungry.
Tanglao had just a few pesos in his pocket on December 10 when he he turned up to work at an unnamed supermarket in Santa Ana, Manila.
He told officers he didn’t even have enough money for his jeepney fare home, and started to feel hungry at 4pm. Then, by 5.45, he buckled and took a can of corned beef from a stock room.
When caught by the head of the supermarket’s security team he was taken to the police station.
“I thought they’d just kicked me out of the workplace. I didn’t expect them to file a criminal complaint against me,” he said.
A policeman familiar with Tanglao’s case shook his head while talking to the Inquirer.
“Of course, stealing is not right. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t even file a case. I’d just fire him. Look, the money spent on photocopying the documents needed to file the case in court is more expensive than the price of the corned beef,” he said.
Tanglao said he thought his mother had posted bail for him, but couldn’t be sure as they were not currently on speaking terms.
He said: “I felt like I’ve been shamed and embarrassed before the world. I’m not saying what I did was right. I know it’s wrong. All I’m saying is I was just really hungry that day and I didn’t have money.”
The tale of Tanglao’s imprisonment has gone viral on social media, with many saying it is typical of the social injustice in the Philippines.
A Facebook comment from netizen Marko Yambao was typical. It read: “This is a sad Christmas for the employee who tried to take corned beef because of hunger, while Jean Napoles can have a wild Christmas party using our funds. My soul can’t be at peace because of how unfair the world is. What can we do to help this guy?”