DAVAO CITY—Thirty-one-year-old Angelita cried uncontrollably as she was being locked up in a cell in a police station here after she was accused of helping a gang of pickpockets that preyed on victims at a bookstore in a shopping center here on Thursday.
She was quick to admit her role in the pickpocket gang, however, “I worked with two neighbors,” she said. “I acted as the lookout and to distract the victim,” she added.
When she got caught, she said it was out of panic. She was distracting the victim but accidentally hit the victim’s face with a folder. “That was when she became aware that her wallet was already missing,” Angelita said. “I was caught while my two companions were able to escape,” she said.
Angelita’s story is not uncommon. She did odd jobs to support two daughters—a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old—after leaving her live-in partner because he cheated on her and abused her.
“We have not received any support for the basic needs of the children,” she said.
“I tried selling small quantities of basic commodities and rugs. I tried working as a maid. I even tried working in ‘videoke’ bars. But my efforts were still not enough,” Angelita said.
Her list of options growing shorter, she was enticed by some neighbors to enter into a life of crime, to be a pickpocket.
While it never is a justification to commit a crime, Angelita said she was forced to be a pickpocket to make ends meet.
“I engaged in it because I was tempted that the money that I will get from it will help us survive the day. I was not thinking about anything grand or luxurious. I just wanted to bring food for my daughters,” Angelita said.
Her share would depend on the amount they get from their victims. The largest she got was P1,500, she said.
“I will do anything for my daughters. And I believe they knew what I was doing,” she said.
But Angelita said she knew that what she was doing was a crime.
“There were times when I went to church to pray and beg for a new life, a better life. But this is reality,” she said.
Now facing theft charges, Angelita said she does not know what will happen to her daughters, who are now in the custody of relatives.
She pleaded to her victim for forgiveness.
“Ma’am, I know that I have committed a sin but please forgive me. Help me return to my home. Please do it not for me but for my daughters. I will never commit any crime again. Forgive me,” Angelita pleaded.
She couldn’t help but compare her plight to criminals who are still on the loose and have not tasted jail because of connections and money.
Like Janet Lim-Napoles, who is now wanted for an illegal detention case and faces a bigger charge of plunder. Or like the lawmakers who took part in the systematic looting of billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money through the pork barrel system.
“Persons, most especially politicians, who rob money from our taxes and public funds must be arrested and jailed in the same cramped detention cells where we are being detained so that they will be able to think about their sins,” she said.
Admitting that she did wrong, Angelita said she couldn’t fathom the greed of Napoles and politicians involved in the plunder of public funds.
“We pickpocket because we need to survive. But I cannot imagine what motivated Napoles and these politicians to pocket millions of pesos in funds allocated to help the poor,” she said.
Angelita said she also saw on television the lavish lifestyle of Napoles’ daughter, Jeane, abroad.
Angelita said it hurts her as a mother because she steals to feed her daughters while Napoles does it to pamper her daughter.
“It is very painful that poor people who commit crimes can be easily arrested. I do not even know what will happen to me or when will I face the court or if I will be transferred to the city jail. It hurts me that Napoles, a robber worse than us, easily got away,” she said.
“It hurts me that politicians who stole millions or even billions are sitting comfortably in their offices,” Angelita added.