Cebu cop settles for a smile in returning money he found

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ROLE MODEL SPO2 Isagani Ceniza of the Cebu City Public Safety Company turns over to Cebu City Police Office the more than US $2,093, jewelry and other personal belongings that he found. CEBU DAILY NEWS / CHRISTINE EMILY PANTALEON

CEBU CITY – He could have kept the money for himself and nobody would have known.

But Senior Police Officer 2 Isagani Ceniza was not that kind of a person. He returned a belt bag containing almost 100,000 in dollar and peso bills as well as jewelry left by a balikbayan inside a taxicab his wife had hailed after shopping for groceries.

He also turned down the reward money offered to him by the bag’s owner, Erlinda Fleming, 63, more so on learning that she had returned to Cebu from the United States because her daughter had been diagnosed with cancer.

“It would be better if she would use the money for her daughter’s treatment,” Ceniza said. “A smile is enough reward for me.”

Senior Superintendent Noli Romana, chief of the Cebu City police, said Ceniza’s honesty would encourage others to return things they find to their rightful owners.

Fleming, who lived in Alaska, forgot the belt bag in a taxicab that she took in downtown Cebu City in the afternoon of September 13.  Ceniza’s wife, Maria Gina, took the same cab on Magallanes Street on her way home after buying groceries.

Ceniza, who had been waiting at home for his wife, helped take the groceries out of the cab when he noticed the belt bag on the floor. When the driver, Noel Eraña, said the bag was not his, Ceniza then opened it and found it contained $2,093 and P8,500 in cash, two gold rings, a pair of earrings and Fleming’s passport.

Ceniza then decided to turn over the belt bag with its contents to the Fuente police station on Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City and called up radio station dyAB for a public service announcement about the belt bag found inside the taxicab. Other radio stations picked it up until the message eventually reached Fleming.

On September 17, she went to the Fuente police station to claim the belt bag and meet Ceniza.

She commended the police officer for his honesty and tried to give him some money as finder’s reward, but he would have none of it.

Fleming said she arrived in Cebu on September 10 to attend to her eldest daughter, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was to undergo chemotheraphy.

After losing the bag, she said she was not worried at all and was confident she would get it back.

According to Ceniza, the smile on Fleming’s face on seeing her lost bag was reward enough for him, more so when he learned that the money was intended to pay for the chemotherapy of her daughter.

A born-again Christian and a father of two daughters aged 23 and 19, Ceniza said he returned the money because it was not his to keep.

“So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” he said.

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