The disappearances of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in 2006 and activist Jonas Burgos in 2007, put the national spotlight on the phenomenon of enforced disappearances in the country. The victims of this insidious human rights violation are now known as desaparecidos-an unfortunate appropriation of the Latin-American term for the missing. An enforced disappearance is “committed by government officials or by organized groups acting in behalf, or with the support, consent or acquiescence of the government,” according to the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced Disappearance. It is among the most common human rights violations committed in the Philippines, often by suspected military agents in the name of counter-insurgency. During the Arroyo regime, there have been a documented 206 desaparecidos, the highest since even the Marcos regime. There may actually be more cases, but given the state’s treatment of activists and dissenters, many of these have chosen to remain unreported.

To date, despite widespread calls to end these and other forms of human rights violations, not one of these cases have been solved. Not a single desaparecido has been surfaced. The Arroyo administration has yet to be made accountable for its human rights record yet with the public’s woefully short attention and a snail-paced justice system, these cases often remain statistics in a human rights report chart. Thus, under the new government of Benigno Aquino III, sustaining public awareness on the issues of enforced disappearances and human rights remains a critical task. SURFACING intends to give a human face to the stories and struggles of the families of the desaparecidos. By examining these stories as pieces of a whole “systematic abuse is revealed and motive and scale, exposed.” By doing so, the project hopes to engage the audience and challenge them to take responsibility and action.

SURFACING is an ongoing photography project on the human rights situation in the Philippines. It seeks to use and expand the use of photography to illustrate the concept of human rights and call attention to the way it is being observed and respected in the country.


1. Submit

A. BIO (please provide links to your online gallery)

B. Concept proposal describing:

Content – what/who is your subject and what do you want to say?

Style -how will you illustrate your message? how will you tell the story? (cite similar projects/photographers if it will help illustrate your idea)

Method -how will you do it? what materials and resources will be needed? Send requirements to projekt.desap@gmail.com.

Multimedia and cross-disciplinary collaborations are highly encouraged. Applications will be screened and selected based on concept and body of work, or other merits as deemed acceptable by the project steering committee.

2. Accepted applicants are required to attend a short course on visual storytelling and human rights reporting (September). A P100.00 registration fee will be charged as “counterpart” to cover minimal logistical costs.

3. Participants have until October 16 to complete and submit their work. Regular mentoring sessions will be set as support and guidance mechanism.

4. Participants are required to maintain a daily “log” of their shoot. These logs may be used later for documentation and as an element in the digital presentation of the project.

5. Completed photo-stories will be included in key exhibitions culminating at the Human Rights Arts Festival on December 10 as well as the SURFACING website.

6. Questions? Fill out the contact form or or email projekt.desap@gmail.com.

In cooperation with:

SOURCE: http://projektdesap.org/call.html

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