Moved by mom’s tearful plea, owner forgives photo thief | Global News

Moved by mom’s tearful plea, owner forgives photo thief

/ 07:28 PM September 28, 2013

Mark Joseph Solis, center in Barong Tagalog, receives the prizes for winning the ‘Smiles for the World’ photo contest. Screengrab from the video of Raymond C. Ordonez

MANILA, Philippines—Not the “words and articulations” from Mark Joseph Solis but his mother’s “simple and short” apologies that made Norwegian Gregory John Smith to have a change of heart and forgive the controversial photo thief.

“Whilst Solis’ words and articulations made no impact on me whatsoever, his mother’s simple and short apology to me reminded me of who I am and what I represent in an ever tormented world and I would have honestly wished to be beside her in that exact moment to share and comfort her in this sad moment of deception,” Smith said in a letter posted on his Facebook.


A photograph showing an impoverished yet smiling Brazilian boy was posted by Smith on his Flickr account, a photo sharing website. The 22-year-old Solis stumbled upon the photo and sent it as an entry to “Smiles for the World” contest sponsored by the Chile Embassy in Manila, claiming the picture was taken in Zamboanga City.

Stolen fame


The University of the Philippines graduate student bagged the grand prize for the stolen photograph and received a cash prize of $1,000 and plane tickets for a trip to Chile and Brazil during the awarding ceremony at the Cultural Center of the Philippines on September 19.

Uproar soon ensued after Solis’ fraud was brought to light, prompting the embassy to take back the prizes. UP president Alfredo Pascual ordered an investigation to “ensure that justice is served.”

In his Facebook post on Saturday, Smith said he decided to forgive Solis after watching a television interview with the student’s mother, Amelia, who apologized to Smith in tears.

“It takes courage for a mother to speak out the way she did and I have immense respect for such people, no matter who she is trying to defend, because I have met them all here in Brazil before; mothers of killers, rapists, kidnappers and thieves,” said Smith, founder of Children at Risk Foundation, which operates in Brazil and the Philippines.


“As a mother she knows and understands only too well her son’s wrongdoings, but as a mother she has the ability to forgive and to guide, but do we have that same ability? I ask you?” he said.

Mothers suffer the most

“When tragedy first knocks on our doors, it is often the mothers who suffer the most; it is often the mothers who far too often have to carry the burdens of their sons and daughters wrongdoings,” he said.


“We are not alone in this world; Solis is not alone in this world. There are hopefully those in our circle of family and friends that care and love us for whom or what we are, even when we sometimes lose direction.”

Smith said that while he is a compassionate person, he did not feel “for how far Solis was willing to go in his absurd greediness for recognition, fame and fortune.”

“Those consequences he (Solis) will now have to face due to the wrong choices he made and he will feel the after effects of them for many years to come,” he said.


“There are so many wrongdoings in our world today that we often become speechless or even paralyzed for each new tragedy that provokes our own set of values and way of thinking,” Smith said.
“We only need to look around us in the world today to see that it is often tragic circumstances that provoke us to reaffirm our moral and ethical values,” he said.

Slap on the face

Smith hoped that Solis learns from his mistakes, saying that “all of us need a slap on the face once in a while to adjust our own egocentricity, which, if not steered properly, can have tragic consequences on our lives and on the lives of those who are near and dear to us.”

At the same time, he urged the public to “move on” from the controversial photo grabbing issue because “justice has already been done.”

“That young man needs to move on too, change his attitudes and redirect himself on the right pathway to success, which we all know, is only possible through honest and hard labour, something Mark Solis will obviously have to learn along the way, because there is no other way,” he added.

Solis, who is currently taking up his master’s degree in public administration at UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, had said he has not returned the $1,000 cash reward, and even issued an appeal to let him keep it.

In a television interview, Solis said that his family was experiencing a financial problem causing him to steal Smith’s photo to win the cash prize.

Solis graduated cum laude from UP with a degree in political science. Mendoza said the student enrolled only this semester in the MPA program of NCPAG.

On Tuesday, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, partner of the Chile Embassy in the Calidad Humana project, condemned Solis’ fraudulent act.


UP probes ‘photo grabber’

CCP deplores Mark Joseph Solis plagiarism act

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TAGS: Chile, letter, Mark Joseph Solis, Philippines, plagiarism, UP Diliman
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