Solis returns photo contest prizes
MANILA - Mark Joseph Solis, the student who admitted to stealing photos and submitting them to local and international competitions, has returned his prizes and apologized to the Chilean embassy in Manila.
In a statement, Chilean Ambassador Roberto Mayorga yesterday said they have accepted the apology of Solis.
“This morning Mr. Mark Joseph Solis and his mother, Mrs. Amelita Solis, visited Ambassador of Chile Roberto Mayorga to give him his personal apologies for plagiarizing a photo in the contest ‘Smiles for the World’,” the statement said. Mayorga said he asked Solis to redeem himself by participating in the activities of the Calidad Humana project, which aims to preserve and nurture the positive elements of the Filipino personality.
Solis promised to collaborate with the embassy and its partners in promoting the goals of the Calidad Humana through its future activities.
Solis, a student of the University of the Philippines, was awarded the top prize in the Smiles for the World photo contest sponsored by the Chile embassy.
The photo Solis submitted turned out to be owned by Gregory John Smith, the founder of the Children At Risk Foundation. He also apologized to Smith.
Mayorga told The STAR they would no longer pursue legal action against Solis, as he clarified that the embassy’s position from the start was that they were merely considering filing a lawsuit.
“In the first place, we did not say we will file legal actions and just said we are just considering,” he clarified.
Solis returned the high-end cellular phone given by Smart Communications, as the other prizes have not been redeemed yet as they come in the form of certificates.
“In the awarding, we only gave Mr. Solis a certificate entitling him to the ticket and prize money and he has not yet redeemed it,” Mayorga said.
The ambassador said Solis was asked to coordinate and work with the Calidad Humana activities for a year or two in order to redeem himself and to prove that he is truthful in his claim that he was sorry.
“I told him, it would take time to change. It will not happen in one day, one month. So I asked him to volunteer and work in one of our projects,” he said.
Since Solis was claiming to be living in a poor community in Parañaque, Mayorga asked him to organize a group of 15-20 poor children in his barangay who will play in the street football project.
Solis will organize the football team within one month with the help of a football coach, as part of the Calidad Humana project.
The street football project has been going on since the start of the year in poor barangays in Manila, Quezon City, Caloocan and Alabang.
Mayorga gave assurance that he would monitor Solis every week, at least for the next one to two years to “check on his behavior.”
“If he really is sincere in redeeming himself and change to become a better Filipino, he would be very patient and be an example to those who would want redemption from their previous negative behavior,” he said.
The Chilean ambassador said Solis would also be asked to suggest other activities to be carried out under the Calidad Humana. “This is a task and at the same time a challenge to Solis to change his attitude, we are giving him at least one year. He should prove to us that he has the Calidad Humana,” he said.
He said this is the decision of the embassy and he is not aware of the actions to be taken by other affected institutions such as the UP. Solis was not available for comment.
Mayorga said the prizes consisting of a roundtrip ticket to Chile and Brazil from Coca-Cola, a cell phone from Smart Communications and $1,000 cash from the embassy would be given to Medardo Marquez of Negros, in a private ceremony at the embassy on Oct. 3.
The two other winners, Hannah Reyes and Arnold Jumpay, second and third places respectively, will be invited to receive their prizes.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) vowed to finish within two to three weeks its investigation on Solis.
The UP student won the OPAPP’s 2011 “Say Peace” photo contest by submitting a photo allegedly lifted from various social media sites and claimed it as his own.
The OPAPP said if proven guilty, Solis would be asked to forfeit the award.
“We will recall the award without prejudice to the filing of civil and criminal cases if warranted by circumstances,” Jomer Aquino, head of the OPAPP legal and security unit, said. – With Jose Rodel Clapano