by Tara Yap
As a practicing photojournalist and as an officer of the Iloilo chapter of the Press Photographers of the Philippines (PPP), I find the blatant physical harassment of PPP-Aklan chapter president Joe Haresh Tanodra and PPP-Iloilo member Ricky Alejo last Sunday during the highlight of the Dinagyang festival as utterly uncalled for.
I am disgusted with the manner in which retired police chief inspector Dionisio Duco and two police officers implemented the so-called disciplinary action by dragging Joe and Ricky out of the Freedom Grandstand as if they were rowdy dogs.
While the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation Inc. (IDFI) wanted to maintain peace and order, what happened was the direct result of a flawed media guideline for covering the event.
Of the almost 600 “media” IDs released, the percentage given to legitimate media was less than 50%. The others were mostly given to members of various photography clubs here in Iloilo and elsewhere.
I have no problem with legit photography clubs here in Iloilo . After all, they mount group exhibits showcasing the Dinagyang and Iloilo .
I also don’t have a problem with recognized bloggers such as Marcos Caratao Jr. of exploreiloilo.com, Eric Dee of byahilo.com and Bernardo Arellano III of taralets.co.cc.
These photographers and bloggers, who do not belong to any newspaper, radio or TV, rigorously gave Dinagyang the publicity it needs even at their own expense.
But since “media” IDs were handed to other photo enthusiasts, they almost had the same rights and privileges accorded to an accredited journalist covering the event. As a result, the police had no way of differentiating legitimate journalists from mere photo enthusiasts. It would have been more logical and more convenient if a separate photographer’s ID was issued to them and a separate area was designated for them.
But at the very least, kicking out two legitimate photojournalists because they were not in the designated area during a public event is nonsensical (I personally was the one who processed their media IDs, but their request to be at the Freedom Grandstand was denied several times while “media” IDs were even given to mere photo enthusiasts). At the very most, it barred two legitimate photojournalists from achieving what their jobs require—capturing the euphoria that defines the Dinagyang including the performances of the tribes and the VIPs who came to watch.
I am also very disgusted by a radio broadcaster referring to Joe as a “media-media” (the derogatory term for pseudo journalists who milk politicians, government officials, etc).
Joe has been a photojournalist for 25 years and is very well known in the circle of Philippine photojournalism. His experience of news coverage is not only limited to shooting the major festivals of the country, but also natural disasters, political rallies, the war in Mindanao , and MalacaÃ±ang. He was even sent on assignments in India , Singapore and Thailand .
Ironically, the man whom Duco and the two cops dragged has helped the Dinagyang over the years. As a matter of fact, it was Joe’s photograph that appeared in the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) last January 28, 2008. Joe also managed to capture two worthy shots of the Dinagyang, which were printed on the front page of PDI in two previous issues.
More significantly, Joe’s photo of a Dinagyang warrior holding a Santo NiÃ±o was the same photographic image that was used for the 2007 promotional materials of the festival—in posters, brochures, a 20-foot billboard that was displayed near a gas station in Jaro district for almost two years! (Joe joined the photo contest, where he never won or was given royalty rights for the image, but his photograph was still used for promotional purposes. The rules and regulations of the annual Dinagyang photo contest remain flawed as it clearly violates Republic Act 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines .)
Ricky, on his part, is very instrumental in letting the world know of the wrath hurled by Typhoon Frank. It was Ricky’s still photos that CNN picked up through the international news wire Agence France-Presse (AFP) last June 2008.
Notwithstanding the technicalities of what happened last Sunday, this is a blatant insult to practicing photojournalists here in Iloilo , especially to Arnold Almacen, Chris Fernandez and I.
As photojournalists, our photographic images transcend written words printed in the pages of newspapers and magazines or hours and hours of radio airtime. To say the least, we have done our part not just in promoting the Dinagyang, but the very welfare of the people of Iloilo and Panay .
As photojournalists, we should not be treated as criminals or as dispensable entities. As photojournalists, we should be respected.