Crossroads: Photojourns’ Pietas and Madonnas


The SONA of the 16th president, Rodrigo Roa Duterte mentioned a front page Pieta-like pose of an alleged drug pusher and his partner cradling his lifeless body. It has since gone viral and even New York Times used a picture of Reuters’ Czar Dancel shot from above.

Most of the photojournalists who took pictures of that scene are now “enjoying” some sort of fame due to those photos gone viral. Some commented in social media that it was staged. The photojourn who shot the scene for Philippine Inquirer, Raffy Lerma, wrote a moving piece to show he had a job to do.

I quote from Inquirer’s July 31 issue: But, last week, while roving on the night shift, he [Raffy Lerma] was overwhelmed by the body count arising from the drug war: “Hindi bumababa sa lima ang patay bawat araw, minsan 10, may araw na 18. If I will add everything for that week, it would be more than the total for the year when I first did the nightshift in 2005.”

Of his “Pieta”- like photo, he gave credit to the Inquirer editors for having the balls to publish it prominently, when all other media outfits, whose photographers were also on the scene of the crime that night, decided not to use their own shots. But Lerma was disappointed that Mr. Duterte took a potshot at the photo, branding it as “drama.”

“Sorry, Mr. President,” Lerma said, “totoong tao sila. Sino ba tayo para batikusin sila? This is real life… they have every right to grieve for their loved ones… Ikaw rin iiyak kung mangyari sa pamilya mo yan. Ikaw nga, nung nanalo ka (as President), umiyak ka sa puntod ng parents mo. I mean, give these people some dignity.”

But Lerma also believed his photo delivered the message because Mr. Duterte cared to mention it in his first State of the Nation address: “Napansin ng Presidente.” . . .

…He noted: “May purpose ang ginagawa ko, to shed light on this issue. Grabe na talaga! If you will multiply these deaths by six years… Nakakabahala rin ang reaction ng public. We’re a Catholic country, tapos ganito tayo. Kung hindi tayo magre-react, in a way we’re part of it.”

Another photojourn who was on the scene, Mark Saludes of UCAnews wrote in Ellen Tordesillas blog: Saludes explained that the lighting “(It) was from floodlights (MMDA and Policemen who responded), ilaw ng mga TV networks (ask GMA7, CNN, TV5 AND ABS-CBN who were there), flashlights from people who were looking at the crime scene (some were from cellphone flashlights), flash ng mga photojourn ng tabloids.”

Saludes further said: “Si Raffy Lerma walang dalang flash at hindi gumagamit ng flash tulad namin na nag-aral ng documentary photography. So sumasabay lahat ng walang ilaw sa kung anong available light.”

“In fairness sa mga nakasama ko na photogs during that night, walang sumisigaw ng “ISA PA”. Lahat walang imik, hindi nagsasalita at nakikinig lang sa pagmamakaawa ng babae na tulungan ang asawa nya while trying to do our jobs.

“Totoo na maraming walang credibility sa industry natin, pero para gawing dahilan ito para ilayo ang issue ng extra judicial killings eh hindi naman yata tama.”

“To think na inilabas din namin ang identity ng subjects sa frame.”

“Nakakahiya naman siguro for fellow PJs na andun kung idrowing yan ni Raffy, ni Noel Celis, ni Eli Sepe, ni Linus Escandor, ni Vincent Go o ni Mark Saludes habang kagat-kagat ng eksenang iyan ang pansin at ulirat namin.

“Isama na ang puso.”

“I am standing for Raffy and the rest of the PJs who were there.”

“I am standing for photojournalism.”

“Sa presscon lang uso ang sumisigaw ng “ISA PA” o ng “ATRAS KA NG KONTI ATE.”

“We are not just photographers, we are Photojournalists.”

Which brings me to an important point. We are not only photographers, We are photojournalists! We shoot in the moment. We shoot in the raw. We shoot and we do not need staging. Ito ang totoong buhay ng mga totoong tao!

Hindi kailangang itago sa likod ng mga pininturahang mga yero para di makita ng bisita. Hindi kailangang ialis sa mga kalsada at dalhin sa mga resort para di makita ng Santo Papa. Hindi kailangang pagandahin para bumenta ang It’s more fun in the Philippines.

The drug war has taken its toll and its toll is mostly young drug dependents. The drug war has taken its toll and it had been mainly the poor who had the misfortune of taking drugs to deaden the pangs of poverty. The drug war has yet to target those who are making the shabu factories, the big ones, the big fish.

We commend our photojournalists for showing us what the drug war is. Who the drug war victims are. What process is being followed in the statistics count.

We commend our journalists who have not stopped asking why and are writing on the drug war, extra judicial killings and the status of the victims.#


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