Woman fined, will be deported
A theft case in Summary Court since July was finalised last week after Melitza Bondoc Soriano admitted stealing clothes, jewellery, a purse and a wallet from the home in which she had been working as a family helper.
The theft occurred at a Bodden Town residence and the total value of the items was $1,055.
Bondoc, 28, at one stage entered a plea of not guilty and two attorneys tried to assist her at separate times. Then the court heard that, although she pleaded guilty, she had told the writer of a social inquiry report that she was not guilty.
Magistrate Valdis Foldats asked her if she had stolen the clothes and she admitted taking women’s shorts and tops. He then asked if she had taken the jewellery and she had nothing to say.
The magistrate questioned whether her lack of response was due to language difficulties, embarrassment or shame. Someone in court who knew her advised that Soriano was deaf in one ear.
Attorney John Furniss then agreed to assist.
Last week he advised the court, “I have had quite a long chat with her. I asked her point blank if she took the jewellery and she said yes. I then asked what happened to the jewellery and she indicated that when she got frightened, she got rid of it. She told police she put it somewhere in Selkirk Plaza and when she went back it wasn’t there,” the attorney summarised.
He noted that her description of the jewellery box and items in it was something the police would not have had at the time they were questioning her.
The magistrate then spoke to Soriano directly: “You are charged with stealing. Did you?”
With the case being heard in Court No. 3 where there is no dock and no raised platform for the magistrate, he invited her to come closer when she hesitated to answer. Soriano then walked up to his bench, nodded her head and said softly, “Yes, sir.”
The magistrate said he wanted to be sure she was comfortable with English, since the court office had been unsuccessful in getting a speaker of Tagalog to serve as translator at short notice.
Soriano indicated she was comfortable and confirmed that she had a degree in business management from the University of the Philippines, where courses were taught in both English and Tagalog.
“Can you tell me why you did it?” the magistrate asked.
“I am just mad at them,” she replied.
In her interview with police, she explained that she was mad at the people she worked for because “they always shout at me.” She maintained that she intended to give the items back the week after she took them.
The magistrate said anger was never a good reason to do anything. “I’m sure the victims feel offended and upset that this happened to them,” he told her.
Because this was a theft from an employer by an employee, it was a breach of trust, the magistrate noted. He asked Crown Counsel Renuka Rambhajan her position on sentence, since breach of trust usually attracts a prison term. Ms Rambhajan agreed that the amount stolen was small and repayment was offered, in the form of a bank draft brought to court.
The magistrate said the effect of the offence was that Soriano now was a convicted thief and would have to live with that for some time. She had tried to make a better life for her family by working in a foreign country, but would now be deported. Her husband also worked here and it was not known whether he would be staying or going with her.
Given the items that were recovered and returned to the employer, the magistrate ordered that $655 be paid in compensation for the Pandora bracelets and pendants not recovered. He imposed a fine in the sum of the remaining $350.
The magistrate questioned whether her lack of response was due to language difficulties, embarrassment or shame.