SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: The eighth commandment

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/12 June) – Years ago the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a pastoral letter about stealing. I could not remember the exact context of that pastoral letter, but it sort of argued that stealing, though illegal, may be morally justified if it is done to feed one’s starving family members.

My memory may have failed me, and I ask for apology from the CBCP for any inaccuracies in my recollection. But the point I like to raise is that there are acts of stealing whose motives are not intrinsically evil, and there are those that are unconscionable from their inception. As in other aspects of existence and relationships among mortals, there are situations where absolute rules have to be followed, and there are those that must be weighed based on circumstances.

That’s why the law judges the act of stealing or theft by the gravity of its effects on the parties wronged. As such, stealing another person’s money or belongings carries a penalty that is lesser compared to the crimes of corruption and plunder. When one robs his neighbor, he wrongs one man or one family. When a public official pockets government funds, he wrongs a whole nation.

There are acts of stealing too that may be worse than either corruption or plunder. It has had happened many times in this country. But perhaps nothing compares to the brazenness of what happened in 2004 and 2007, perpetrated by the same administration and for the same purpose – to steal an elective position from its rightful owner.

In 2004, the thievery left its mark in illegal phone calls to an election official. The thief went on to rule for six more years, shielded by the same institution that said not all thievery is immoral. They forgot that the culprit did not steal to feed a hungry family; she stole to feed her hunger for power.

In 2007, the thievery left its mark on election results that showed an improbable 12-0 sweep in Maguindanao in favor of the candidates sponsored by the same administration that maintained itself in power by stealing the vote in 2004. He sat on the stolen seat for four years, leaving less than two years for the legitimate owner to enjoy its warmth. He would then say that he never knew about the plot.

Indeed, even absurd excuses can be useful at times. Congressman Rodolfo Farinas has a word for it – palusot.

But last time I heard, it didn’t work with twenty senators. Maybe it will work with the voters in 2013? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at