A victim of poverty, and a victim of bullying due to “disinformation.” This is the latest sad twist in the case of Leonardo “Lolo Narding” Flores, who went viral after he was arrested for stealing three sacks of mangoes from a property in Asingan town in Pangasinan.
Partido Reporma Chairman and standard-bearer Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson bared Thursday that there is a second victim in the case – Robert Hong, the caretaker of the lot from where the mangoes were taken.
Hong – who lodged a complaint against Flores for stealing three sacks of mangoes in April last year – is now in hiding after the story of Flores became viral, as he is now being bullied by bloggers and netizens, noted Lacson, who initiated his own investigation in Asingan town on Thursday.
“Before offering any assistance to resolve Lolo Narding’s problem, I would like to know the facts first,” Lacson said.
“Both Lolo Narding and Robert are victims. Lolo Narding can be considered a victim of poverty, while Robert, the new caretaker and complainant representing the owner of the lot, is a truck driver who now cannot go to work because of the bad publicity generated by the story of Lolo Narding’s plight. Thus he is also a victim – in this case, of bullying stemming from unintended inaccurate information,” Lacson said, citing initial information reaching him.
Lacson said his investigation showed Hong, as caretaker of the property, filed a complaint against Flores for stealing three sacks of mangoes before selling them in the local talipapa (market) in April 2021.
“Robert’s family says he is willing to settle but requests that the apparent disinformation be rectified. Meanwhile, Lolo Narding couldn’t settle with the property owner through the caretaker because he already spent the proceeds in the amount of P7,000,” he said, even as he noted the Public Information Office of Asingan town has apologized to Hong for the bashing he has suffered online.
“This should also be an eye-opener for us. On social media, things may not always be what they seem at first glance,” Lacson added.
On the other hand, Lacson lamented that Lolo Narding’s case was a microcosm of Philippine society where the poor who steal out of necessity are arrested quickly while the wealthy and corrupt remain scot-free. “May nagnanakaw out of necessity. Ako naniniwala na kung ganoon ang reason, they deserve a second chance. Ang nakakagalit ng loob, ang nagnakaw ng malaking halaga sa pera ng gobyerno (There are those who steal out of poverty and necessity and I believe they deserve a second chance. But what makes my blood boil are those who steal huge amounts of money, and from public funds to boot),” he said in an interview on Bombo Radyo Philippines Thursday morning.
Lacson said the first step to correct this is to clean the bureaucracy of corruption so the criminal justice system may be implemented fairly and properly. But this must be accompanied by a change in mindset on the part of the people – to demand accountability from public servants.