Decoding the life of Frankie Joe
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No more secrets from dead men, Josefina Soriano, the mother of a slain communist leader in Bicol, came to know.
“Nanay Fina” just realized that the son she named Frankie Joe Soriano was also known by another name in a life he had effectively concealed from her.
“I was surprised that he and that man, Greg Bañares, were the same person,” she said in a phone interview. “I remember telling myself many times that [the name of] that man (Bañares) sounded the same as my Frankie,” but I didn’t think it could be him.”
Frankie Joe, 40, was one of the eight New People’s Army (NPA) members killed in an encounter with Army soldiers in Juban town in Sorsogon on July 4. The political science graduate from Ateneo de Naga University (AdeNU), was known to the media and the public as “Ka Greg Bañares,” spokesperson of the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) in the region and faceless voice of the underground movement.
Nanay Fina learned about the involvement of her son and his wife Christine Puche, or “Ka Nel,” with the NDF after years of taking comfort in the belief that they were employed by a nongovernment organization helping the poor and needy in different parts of the country.
Soriano’s rebel life as Ka Greg started right after he graduated from college, his close friends and batchmates said.
“Of all of us from our department, he was the only one who really immersed himself in the ideals we had back then,” said his close confidante, who asked not to be named but agreed to be identified as a former member of the defunct school-based organization Kapatirang Plebeian and local chapter of militant League of Filipino Students (LFS).
Soriano was very active on campus as one of those Ateneans in Naga City who eagerly took to the streets for causes he deeply believed in, the confidante said.
Soriano graduated from college in 1993. His classmates and friends did not see him for a while after that—until he came knocking on their doors to appeal for support for the NDF.
“We were against his taking the final decision of going ‘up there’ that we tried influencing him to get back to mainstream society when he came soliciting for our help for their cause,” one friend said.
Soriano’s classmates and friends had been planning to “lay out a sufficient future” for him before the July 4 encounter with a platoon of soldiers from the 31st Infantry Battalion in Sorsogon. They wanted to help build a normal life for him and his children, aged 13 and 9 years, in his hometown in Libmanan, Camarines Sur.
Husband and wife
Soriano and his wife died during the encounter, leaving their special children to the care of the Puches in Metro Manila. Nanay Fina said she often visited the children and her son in their house, believing that they were leading normal lives as social workers.
Puche, whose guerrilla name was “Abby” or “Ka Nel,” 37, was a journalism graduate of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, according to the Armed Forces of the
Philippines’ Public Affairs Office (AFP-PAO) at Camp Aguinaldo.
She had been Soriano’s girlfriend since he graduated from college. They got married in 2000, Nanay Fina said.
Soriano’s first cousin, an Army scout ranger, said the two met and fell in love while being LFS members.
Angie Galupo, former station manager and anchor of Bombo Radyo Naga (dzNG), said in her Facebook account that she was saddened by the death of the NDF spokesperson who had figured in her career as a media practitioner. Many journalists in the defense beat, who had interviewed Soriano by phone, shared the same feeling.
Soriano’s concern was the entire Bicol, they said. As an NDF propagandist, he frequently lambasted the military, particularly on human rights violation cases.
“They might have had legitimate reasons for joining the movement in their youth but after almost two decades of armed struggle, they still have not learned that joining a group which causes only violence against our people isn’t the answer,” said Maj. Angelo Guzman, assistant chief of the AFP-PAO, in a media statement.
Lt. Col. Medel M. Aguilar, acting spokesperson of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division in Bicol, said the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA, its military wing, issued an “irresponsible” statement in announcing that it planned to avenge the death of its leaders in Sorsogon.
He said the statement directed an all-out offensive against the Army in complete disregard of the well-being of civilians.
At AdeNU, batchmates of Soriano offered a Mass on Monday in paying tribute to him and another Atenean, computer science graduate Ted Palacio, alias “Ka Gary,” who also died in the Sorsogon encounter.
Soriano and wife Puche would be buried on July 11 while Palacio lie in state in Naga City.
On July 5, the NPA’s Celso Minguez Command in Sorsogon confirmed in its blog that Ka Miloy (Pehing Hipa), Ka Rey (David Llunar), Ka Nene (Romero Añonuevo), Ka Jay (William Villanueva Jr.), and Ka Kevin (Ailyn Calma) were the other fatalities.