Forgiven for stealing
An answered prayer.”
This was how a former canteen worker at the Capitol described the decision of Gov. Hilario Davide III to forego filing a criminal charge against her for stealing relief packs intended for typhoon victims in north Cebu.
Nessie Torralba, a 53-year-old mother, said the decision was the “best Christmas gift” she’s ever received.
The woman was fired from her job in the private canteen after she was caught on video by the Capitol’s closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) stealing food packs stored inside the Capitol on three different instances last Nov. 12, 28 and 29.
Torralba was turned over to the police on Dec. 9 but was released shortly after no complaint was filed.
Governor Davide said he changed his mind about filing a complaint and adopted the suggestion of the Provincial Legal Officer Orvi Ortega to halt the filing “in the spirit of Christmas”.
“This is really out of pity especially since it’s Christmas time. Maybe she was really in need. We do not know what really drove her to steal,” Davide told reporters yesterday.
However, Davide said criminal actions will not be tolerated in the future.
Torralba, the breadwinner in a family of seven, expressed her joy over the second chance.
“Pwerte gyud nakong lipaya kay mao ra gyud kini akong gipangayo ug gipangadgian sa Ginoo karong Pasko. Mao ni ang pinaka-nindot nakong nadawat nga pinaskohan,” she told Cebu Daily News over the phone.
(I am so happy because this was the only thing that I asked and prayed for to God this Christmas. This is the best Christmas gift I’ve ever received.)
She said she offered a thanksgiving mass on Christmas eve at the Holy Cross Parish in barangay Basak Pardo in Cebu City.
Torralba had earlier tried to meet the governor to appeal to him not to press charges. When she couldn’t get an appointment, she aired her appeal in a local radio station where she cried and apologized to province officials on air.
“Asa man intawn ko ug ikasukol kung ila gyud ko pasakaan ug kaso nga wala gyud mi kwarta,” she said.
(How can I afford to defend myself if they eventually file a case against me when we don’t have any money.)
When she was first confronted by Capitol security personnel about the theft, she begged in tears not to be identified or charged.
Torralba said she brought home two bags of relief goods piled in a corridor of the Capitol building because her family was hard up after the hospitalization of her husband.
Each relief pack contained three kilos of rice, five tins of canned food, three packs of noodles and bottled water.
Torralba said she was immediately fired by her employer, Lourdes Catering Services, following the incident.
She said her husband suffered from high-blood pressure and needs daily medication.
“Wala pa gyud ko’y trabaho karon. Nangita pa. Maayo unta naa maluoy nako unya tagaan ko nila ug trabaho,” she said yesterday.
(I still don’t have work. I’m still looking. I hope someone takes pity and gives me a job.)
Governor Davide yesterday said he reached his decision following the endorsement of the Provincial Legal Officer, who noted the woman’s persistent appeal.
“After taking into account the surrounding circumstances on top of the incessant begging of the suspect for forgiveness, the Provincial Legal Office is overwhelmed by the spirit of Christmas which is the season for forgiveness, giving and sharing,” wrote Ortega on Dec. 23.
For his part, Ortega said the Capitol will push for the prosecution of the woman if a similar violation is repeated.
“The Capitol has the right to file a case against her because it happened in the premises of the Capitol and involved relief goods. Next time in similar infractions, we will really push for prosecution,” he said.
Cebu Daily News tried to get the side of Torralba’s employer yesterday but the canteen was closed for the holidays.
Ortega said the canteen concessionaire was granted an extension to operate in the Capitol until the end of January 2014 after their contract expired last September 30.
After that, a committee will decide whether to conduct a rebidding for the canteen service, he said.