The two young daughters of a women’s rights advocate try to live normal lives even as they attend the trial of their mother’s murder in Tagbilaran City almost every month. A Lumad family in Davao continues to bereave the death of their patriarch while seeking ways to hold on to their ancestral land. A wife in North Cotabato wrestles with the fact that her husband is a bus bombing suspect and a victim of torture.
These are only three of Mario Ignacio IV’s 14 photo essays featured in Silenced: Extrajudicial Killings and Torture in the Philippines. Fourteen stories of lives changed because of extrajudicial killings and torture. Fourteen stories that have been forgotten or have fallen out of media attention.
VERA Files revisited these cases through the Human Rights Case Watch project. Community journalists who partnered with VERA Files wrote the stories while I took the photos: of torture victims inside a prison camp, a mother sitting in the exact spot where her son was shot, a home long abandoned by terrified kin, a bullet-ridden car where a judge met his untimely death.
We returned to the field with the magnificent Mayon Volcano in the background where a Methodist pastor was killed. In Davao, while traveling the road to a creek where the body of a rebel leader’s daughter was dumped, we were stopped and questioned by heavily armed policemen looking for drug dealers. A police escort accompanied us when we visited the families of the victims of a serial killer in Pampanga.
The victims or their families bared to us their anguish and anger, their dread, desolation and despair. But hope that justice would come one day also shone through the faces of some of them. The collection of photo essays in Silenced: Extrajudicial Killings and Torture in the Philippines is a humble attempt to document this rich range of experiences and emotions.