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CGHR Panel - The Streets Don't Forget: Photojournalism and Creative Research on the Philippine Drug War

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In the two years since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte launched an “all-out-war” against illegal drugs in May 2016, much has been written regarding the degree of violence deployed by state and quasi-state mechanisms. Approximately 28,000 deaths have been recorded as of December 2018. The police claim to have killed more than 5,000 drug suspects as of December 2018, while more than 22,000 deaths, including children, are under investigation. Many of them are in urban poor communities.

Join us for a panel discussion with:

Award-winning photojournalist Raffy Lerma, who will be presenting his work and that of the ‘Nightshift’ group to document the killings. He is joined by urban planner Ica Fernandez who works on the impact of drug-related deaths on deprived families in Metro Manila and collaborates with artists and musicians to communicate her research findings to the public. The panel is completed by Inez Feria of NoBox Philippines, a non-profit organisation espousing principles of Harm Reduction in response to issues related to drug use.

Raffy Lerma is a freelance photographer based in Manila, Philippines. He began his career in photojournalism as a student of the College of Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines Diliman—covering events and street protests that led to the ouster of former president Joseph Estrada in 2001. He worked as a staff photographer for the Philippine Collegian, the official student publication of the university and later served as its Photo Editor in 2004. Lerma finished his Diploma in Photojournalism at the Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University. He was also the Philippine representative in Hanoi, Vietnam for World Press Photo – Asia Europe Foundation Forum for Young Photographers in 2004. For 12 years, Lerma worked as a staff photographer for Philippine Daily Inquirer covering the daily news beat in Metro Manila. He has recently shifted into working independently to focus on his documentation of the Philippines’ war on drugs. His most well-known photo is of drug war victim Michael Siaron a pedicab driver and urban slum dweller, who was shot dead in July 23, 2016. It became, and continues to be, the singular iconic image that symbolizes the ongoing violence and impunity in the Philippines. It provoked an outpouring of sympathy and outrage about the drug war from different segments of Philippine society as well as vilification from President Duterte who described it as “melodramatic” during his first State of the Nation Address.

Ica Fernandez is an urban planner and independent researcher working on the intersections of spatiality, culture, armed conflict, land, and decentralization. She has spent the last decade working on development programs for conflict-affected areas, serving in the Philippine government and consulting for international development organizations, including the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the British Council, and The Asia Foundation. Ica holds an MA in urban and regional planning from the University of the Philippines and and MPhil in Planning, Growth, and Regeneration from the University of Cambridge.

Inez Feria is founder of NoBox Philippines which espouses principles of Harm Reduction in response to issues related to drug use. Feeding into NoBox’ creation are the 20 years or so that Inez has been immersed in the field of substance use treatment, harm reduction, and drug policy. She has spoken in conferences, both local and international, and has also presented about the Philippines on a panel on Drugs and Health at the United Nations. Inez’ work is influenced heavily by her education in psychology and medical anthropology at the University of the Philippines, and continually refines her thinking on this issue through engagements with people well-informed about drugs and drug policy, and especially with people involved with drugs. She is fuelled by the belief that we can make the world a little more logical, a little more scientific, and, as always, a little kinder.

The panel discussion will be accompanied by an exhibition of Raffy Lerma’s photographs.

The talk will be followed by a wine reception. All welcome!

This talk is part of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights Events series.

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