PHOTOJOURNALIST OUT, PRETTY LADY STAYS. Retired policeman Dionisio Duco, chief security of Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, in white shirt, and several policeman talked to international photojournalist Joe Haresh Tanodra to get out of the Judging Area No. 1 in front of the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, a public area, during the staging of the Dinagyang Festival, for the simple reason that his accreditation indicates that he should be in Judging Area No. 2, but not taking into consideration that a woman who is not a member of the press is also busy taking photos and yet allowed to stay in her post. Tanodra was later dragged out physically by the men out of the area. Tanodra, President of Press Photographers of the Philippines Aklan-Boracay Chapter, was forcibly dragged out of the area in front of hundreds of shocked spectators and photojournalists. Different media groups have denounced how policemen manhandled Tanodra and demanded an apology from local officials and the authorities over the incident. Aside from Tanodra, policemen also ejected Ricky Alejo, of Pinoy Paparazzi. (PNS / Jessie Casabar, Jerry Carual and Arnold Almacen)
The Press Photographers of the Philippines (PPP) Iloilo Chapter condemns in the strongest term possible the callousness and insensitivity of retired Police Chief Inspector Dionisio Duco, chief security of the Iloilo City Mayor’s Office, and several policemen in physically removing internationally acclaimed photojournalist, Joe Haresh Tanodra, also President of PPP Aklan-Boracay chapter, and Ricky Alejo of Pinoy Parazzi from the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand while covering the festivities.
Even if Mr. Tanodra and Mr. Alejo had failed to secure accreditation from the festival organizers to cover events at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, this does not justify the harsh treatment they suffered from the hands of Duco and his men, an act that befits only criminals and those who are threats to national security.
The physical removal of Mr. Tanodra from Iloilo Freedom Grandstand is a blatant display of contempt and disrespect to the Fourth Estate which has been an indispensable partner of the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation and the Iloilo City Government in promoting Dinagyang and other tourism events in this part of the Philippines.
This sends a wrong signal that the press can be bullied by anyone with power and authority from top guns to the lowly chief security officer like the brute Mr. Duco, that they can be hogtied and thrown out like pigs, or worse, can be slaughtered like the scores of journalists killed in the Philippines since the restoration of democracy in 1986.
While keeping order at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand is a must during the holding of the Dinagyang festival, the role of security personnel is not above the role of the press in covering it. Having an orderly conduct of the Dinagyang may be a welcome sight, but such tourism spectacle can never achieve its ends without the reporters writing about it and without photojournalists capturing its colors and grandeur.
Dinagyang may be the best tourism event in the Philippines, but if the likes of Mr. Duco are allowed to spoil the spirit of the festivities, then festival organizers – the Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation and the Iloilo City Government – there is really nothing to be proud about it.
We therefore call on Mayor Jerry Treñas and Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas to mete necessary disciplinary actions on Mr. Duco and the policemen involved in this unfortunate incident, without prejudice to our right to file appropriate legal actions not only on the harm that Mr. Tanodra has suffered but also on the damages incurred on his camera.
Signed this 25th day of January 2009 in Iloilo City, Philippines.
PPP President, Iloilo Chapter