PDI 'so very sorry' for offensive photo caption

(UPDATE) After drawing flak for an offensive caption in its front page photo, the Philippine Daily Inquirer has conveyed its apologies.

"We say so sorry to those who have taken offense over the caption head (“Security Risk?”) for the photo of President Benigno Aquino III shaking the hand of a Muslim woman garbed in a burqa, which appeared on Page 1 of the May 9 issue of the Inquirer," Inquirer said as a response to Letters to the Editors from Fernando Sepe Jr., Chair Philippine Center for Photojournalism and Rowena Paraan, Secretary General of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

"We are especially sorry to have hurt the feelings of our Muslim brothers and sisters," Inquirer added.

On Thursday, NUJP urged the Philippine Daily Inquirer to apologize for the caption.

On some editions of the Inquirer on Wednesday, a photo showing a woman shaking President Benigno Aquino III's hand was captioned "SECURITY RISK? President Aquino greets a Muslim woman wrapped in a burka and and niqab during the oath-taking of officers in charge of the ARMM Regional Legislative Assembly held in Malacañang on Tuesday. The unidentified woman is reportedly a relative of one of the officers."

"It is disturbing that the paper cleared such a blatantly bigoted caption, especially after the firestorm of criticism it reaped in the wake of the Demetrio Vicente fiasco, when PDI ran a series of unflattering photos of the stroke victim when he appeared at the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona and labeled it 'Character witness'," NUJP said.

NUJP said Inquirer should apologize and explain how the caption saw print. It also urged Inquirer to apologize to photographer Lyn Rillon since "the blame (for the caption) might be unfairly laid on the photographer whose byline accompanies the photograph."

"Needless to say, (Inquirer) should also promise to be extra careful never to let this happen again," the group said.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, which has been holding formal exploratory talks for a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has no official position on the incident.

It however sent a press release Thursday morning calling on the public to have a stake in the peace process.

"Unless there is some appreciation that in fact this rainbow of cultures is going to enrich me instead of scare me the way it is done now – ‘Matakot ka sa Bumbay, matakot ka sa Moro’ – the racism in this country does not make for peace," it read, quoting a speech made by Presidential peace adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles at the National Defense College of the Philippines last week.

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