Bishop seeks freedom of supermarket clerk jailed for stealing corned beef

MANILA, Philippines – Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David appealed for the freedom of 21-year-old supermarket clerk Paul Matthew Tanglao, who was jailed for stealing corned beef worth P31.50 ($0.60).

In a Facebook post on Monday, December 18, David said Tanglao has spent "already one week in jail for stealing a can of corned beef worth P31.50!" 

"It was 5:45 pm; he hadn't had lunch and he was hungry," said the bishop, who is also vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

"Please, for heaven's sake, let's get this man out of jail! I am willing to repay his employer, the supermarket owner, a hundred times over," David said. 

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on December 12 that Tanglao has been detained at the Santa Ana station of the Manila Police District since December 10, and is "facing a complaint of qualified theft." 

Quoting a police report, the Inquirer said "a security guard caught Tanglao hiding a can of corned beef in his apron at around 5:40 pm" on December 10.

The supermarket supervisor eventually requested the cashier "to file a complaint" against Tanglao. 

The Inquirer said some police officers "had tried to dissuade the supermarket from pressing charges – all to no avail." The supermarket was identified in the report only as "part of one of the largest mall chains in the country."

Tanglao has drawn sympathy in a country where plunderers get acquitted or remain in positions of power. Facebook users have pointed out this irony in various posts about Tanglao.

Tanglao was jailed days after a court dismissed a tax evasion case against Jeane Napoles, daughter of the alleged mastermind of the Philippines' biggest corruption scandal in recent history. – 

P50.50 = $1

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at