No single image or photo can adequately capture the phenomenon of “impunity” in the country, much less the efforts to curb or stop it. But that was exactly the challenge that the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL)’s photo contest posed to photographers: Present a single image that visually captures our fight against impunity. I entered the contest with the idea of submitting some of my photos that invoked resistance or struggle against state-sponsored violence, either in the provinces where the various armed conflicts are most vividly experienced, or in the metropolitan streets, where the protests are most frequently expressed. I am thankful that the NUPL’s judges, Attys. Charlie Yu and Greg Fabros, as well as Edith Burgos and (legendary) Associated Press chief photographer Bullit Marquez, chose two of my entries in the top ten, and chose one of my submissions as the first prize. The latter photo, which I clumsily titled “Act of Defiance,” shows an urban poor activist braving the water canons employed by anti-riot policemen during a protest rally against repressive policies of then President Arroyo’s regime, in 2006. (Trivia: I used a FILM SLR Nikon camera for this photo. Yes, I was still using film as late as 2006. Hehe.)
While I am proud of this photo (if I remember correctly, this was one of my “Hail Mary” photos), some of the other submissions — the ones that I did see, because I arrived, uhm, late during the awarding program last January 27 — are quite compelling. I wish NUPL would publish the submissions, or at least the ten finalists, in their website, blog or Facebook account.
Here is one of my submissions; one of the ten finalists: a photo of a Muslim man and his child awkwardly sitting between two paramilitary armed men in Munai, Lanao del Norte on October 2008. The paramilitary soldiers were a constant presence in refugee camps like the one that the man and his child sought refuge in, after government troops attacked Muslim communities with supposed Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) presence in Lanao del Sur. These refugees fled their communities for fear of their lives.
Here is the so-called “winning” photo.