‘Clear conscience?’ How thieves can twist facts, gain public support

November 15, 2022 - 5:57 PM
Photo shows PJ Dela Cruz, more popularly known as Otlum stealing an unattended phone above the counter of a store in Manila (Screengrab from Josua Esquivel/Facebook; GMA News/YouTube)

A recent viral theft incident highlighted that thieves can change the narrative.

PJ Dela Cruz, more popularly known as Otlum stole an unattended phone above the counter of a store in Manila early this month.

In an interview with GMA News, Otlum said that what he did is not stealing. 

“Ang depenisyon ng pagnanakaw ay papasok sa isang establisimyento at walang abog-abog ay magbububuklat at kukuha ng mga bagay na nasa pribado na lugar. Pero ang nangyari po sa akin, ako po ay nasa labas ng tindahan, hindi po ako pumasok. Nakita ko lamang ang istante na ito sa ibabaw ng pasimano at ito po ay aking kinuha,” Otlum said.

“Hindi po masama ang aking ginawa dahil ang akin pong konsensiya ay clear,” he added. 

Following the incident, Otlum was featured in the news magazine show “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho.”

In the show, the owner of the phone and video uploader apologized to Otlum for posting the CCTV video of the incident. 

Otlum responded and said, “Next time, do not leave your things unattended.”

“We are all human beings, sometimes we can commit a mistake. I, myself, take all the accountability for whatever mistake that I have done,” he continued. 


Some social media users sounded alarm over the incident noting how thieves could gaslight and gain public sympathy despite the wrong action. 

“It’s funny until you realize thieves can really change the narrative,” lawyer Gideon Peña said

“That OTLUM issue that involves a thief who was able to twist facts to her favor making people praise her even for that ability is the exact danger that has put us to where we are now as a nation. Years ago, the thieves with their team, did the same thing. And look at us now,” a Twitter user said

“This shouldn’t be normalized. Otlum should be in jail. She doesn’t deserve any screen time. She’s a dramatic, manipulative, gaslighting thief. That’s all she is,” a social media user said

“Thinkpiece: The admiration for Mama Otlum’s gaslighting is a symptom of a larger societal problem, which is the gravity inside the popcorn,” a Twitter user said

“Huhuhuhu no one is doing it like mhiema otlum like yung nanakawan pa yung nag-sorry huhuhu 2x Olympics gold medalist in gaslighting talaga ang mhiema ko!!!!” a Twitter user said.

After the incident, Otlum continued to gain popularity and collaborated with several content creators.

Mental health problem, PWD as excuse?

Others were defending Otlum’s action because he is diagnosed with a parasocial disability. 

This disability is “a clinically recognized condition or illness that affects a person’s thought processes, judgment or emotions, e.g. bipolar mood disorder, schizophrenia,” Central Gauteng Mental Health Society said

For some online users, being a person with a disability (PWD) or having a mental health problem is not an excuse to commit a crime. 

“I am speaking (well–writing) as a PWD, di porket we’re different from the others doesn’t mean na we can get away with crimes like this ng walang parusa,” a social media user said

“Please be reminded that mental health is not an excuse for bad behavior. Let’s not romanticized Otlum’s behavior please,” a Twitter user said

Youth for Mental Health Coalition National chairperson Alyannah Lagasca said in an interview with KMJS that the action of a person with mental health disorder cannot be directly associated with his or her condition. 

“Nakikita natin ang kalusugang pangkaisipan bilang isang sensitobong topic. ‘Di natin masasabi talaga dahil yung sa kanilang disorder o mental health condition kaya nila nagagawa ang mga partikular na mga bagay,” Lagasca said. 

“Ang bawat aksyon, ang bawat sinasabi, ang pagiisip ng isang tao ay naiimpluwensiyahan ng mga tao sa kanyang paligid at mga bagay-bagay at mga sitwasyon na nangyayari sa kanya sa pang araw-araw,” she noted. 

Not guilty?

While Otlum argued that he is not guilty of stealing based on her definition of the crime, under the Revised Penal Code what he did may be classified under theft. 

According to Article 38 of the Revised Penal Code, “theft is committed by any person who, with intent to gain but without violence against, or intimidation of persons nor force upon things, shall take personal property of another without the latter’s consent.” 

In an explainer video, veteran lawyer Chel Diokno said stealing a phone unattended outside is considered a crime. 

“Basta’t kinuha at inangkin ang hindi talaga sa kanila liable sila sa theft at pwedeng ikulong na ang tagal ay depende sa halaga ng ninakaw,” Diokno said. 

He also explained the difference between theft and robbery. 

“Kung gumamit naman ng karahasan, pananakot, o puwersa, itinituring itong mas malalang krimen ng robbery,” Diokno said in a tweet. 

Diokno also said that the punishment for robbery is higher compared to theft. 

“Kahit clear pa ang conscience, pagnanakaw ‘yan!” the lawyer said.

“Magingat po tayo sa mga magnanakaw, ha? Lalo na yung mga nahuli na ayaw pa rin ibalik ang kinuha,” Diokno reminded the public.