Narding Floro, 80, was incarcerated upon the complaint of a neighbor for theft and his inability to make bail.

Floro had taken some PHP10,000 (US$200) worth of mangoes from a tree located just outside his residence in Asingan, Pangasinan. His neighbor Robert Hong demanded payment for what he said were clearly produce from his property.

Floro said he planted the tree years ago when there was no fence dividing their two adjoining properties. After he refused to pay the amount demanded by Hong, the latter filed a complaint against him.

A warrant was issued against the octogenarian on December 20 last year and he was arrested on January 13. Bail was set at PHP6,000 (US$120).

The case went viral on social media, and netizens raised a howl, comparing the treatment of Floro to the mere slap on the wrist accorded former first lady Imelda Marcos, who was convicted on seven counts of graft for using public funds for her personal benefit but still remains free.

Senatorial bet Chel Diokno, former dean of De La Salle University’s College of Law, blasted what he called the “double standard” in applying the law. He said the arrest of Floro was excessive.

Diokno also said what happened to the old man was “extremely sad.”

After his arrest, friends and neighbors from Asingan extended financial support to Floro, who collected some PHP60,000 in donations, or 10 times the amount needed to post bail. Among the donors were policemen belonging to the station where the grandfather was jailed.

Cash was also sent from as far away as Canada, according to a councilor from nearby Villasis town.

The outpouring of support for Floro was in contrast to the public displays of hatred thrown at his neighbor.

Hong became the object of threats and cyberbullying to the point that he asked for help from Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a presidential bet.

Due to the threats, Hong said he was forced to stop working as a driver, virtually locking himself up at home.

Hong said the public was under the impression that he was an evil rich man exerting undue pressure on his poor neighbor. In fact, Hong said he is only a caretaker and truck driver who was neither richer nor poorer than Floro.

It later came out that both Floro and Hong were merely tenants of the adjoining properties they occupied. The owners were either in Manila or out of the country. Floro was also the previous caretaker of the property now occupied by Hong.

Hong said that he and Floro had tried to settle their differences in two meetings with barangay officials but could not come to an agreement.

Floro said he could not pay the amount demanded as he had already spent the money he made from selling the mangoes in order to buy food.

Hong said he would only agree to a settlement if Floro paid him in full and issued a public apology.

Lacson sent his staff to check on the case. He said Hong had been the victim of disinformation that “unfortunately put him in a bad light.”

The Commission on Human Rights said it was hoping that the charges filed against Floro would be dropped by Hong and an amicable settlement could be worked out.

Lacson’s office said the two had come to a verbal agreement to settle the case out of court.