By Joshua Corcuera

While scrolling on my social media feed, several news articles reported something that infuriated people. “An 80-year-old man was arrested for allegedly stealing 10 kilograms of mangoes in Asingan, Pangasinan on January 13, 2022,” an article posted by the Philippine Star said. The arrest was likewise based on an arrest warrant.

To the defense of the old man, “pinapitas ko ‘yung isang puno ng manga wala pang sampung kilo, ang alam ko sakop namin,” he said. “Noong binakuran nila, sinakop naman na nila pero tanim ko naman ‘yun.” He was told to post bail amounting to P 6,000 and remained in custody of the Asingan PNP.

Unsurprisingly, thousands were saddened and angered by the report with comments highlighting the state of injustice in the Philippines. On the other hand, affluent and powerful people were alleged to have committed more serious crimes such as corrupting state coffers. As a matter of fact, there are certain wealthy and influential people who were already convicted of sinister acts such as graft, yet they can walk free due to “humanitarian reasons” such as old age. Where is this humanitarian bla bla bla for this 80-year-old man who stole mere mangoes?

Still, it is good to see that some people commented on how to help him with some asking how to pay his bail. A certain comment claimed that some people already raised P 6,000 to pay for the old man’s bail, though I cannot attest to its authenticity. Regardless, it is commendable that many Filipinos remain compassionate, aware of our country’s affairs, and are conscious as far as justice is concerned.

Sure, stealing is wrong, whether the amount is substantial or otherwise. After all, we were taught not to gain possession of something in bad faith. But the old man’s arrest is due to an issued warrant, not because of a final conviction. Even so, isn’t paying for the stolen mangoes plus interest and damages not sufficient enough? By the way, the old man was reported to have offered to pay for the mangoes yet was coerced to post bail. Some people have stolen millions or billions, and barely half of the loot were recovered, yet the same people enjoy privileges only a select few can have.

If this is not injustice, I don’t know what is.

So now, it is important to ask ourselves: how can we contribute to making the world more just and equitable? Being compassionate to the poor is one thing, ensuring that corrupt people end up behind bars is another—and a lofty thing to do. We need to have leaders who are incorruptible, public officials with a sense of integrity proven by their track record. State auditors from the Commission on Audit (COA) issue unmodified or unqualified opinions to offices that present their finances fairly and appropriately. We need to commend public servants who receive such reports and admonish and, if necessary, punish those who receive red flags.

Aside from ensuring our leaders in government and other prominent institutions possess integrity to help alleviate injustice, we need to educate the ordinary people, the masses, and especially the youth about the importance of justice in our daily lives. We need to develop a society where people agree that what is wrong—no matter who did it—must be dealt with severely. Likewise, the concept of due process and equal protection of the laws must be fully understood and applied. As a saying goes, “[s]he who has less in life, must have more in law.”

To attain justice is to constantly fight for it. We must never get tired of fighting for what is right.