QUEZON CITY – Family members of National Democratic Front (NDF) spokesman in Bicol who died in an encounter in Sorsogon last Thursday, July 4, came to claim his body to give him a proper burial in his own hometown.
The death of Ka Greg Bañares (Frankie Joe Soriano), NDF Bicol spokesman, was a tragedy that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) do not relish despite the fact that it might be taken as a victory on our part as media and the public would see it.
Celso Minguez Command (New People’s Army -Sorsogon) admitted on its official blog statement that Ka Greg Bañares was among the eight casualties in the 35-minute firefight between Army’s 31st Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division and an NPA unit in Barangay Upper Calmayon, Juban, Sorsogon last Thursday morning.
Captain Mardjorie Paimela Panesa, Acting Chief of 9ID’s Public Affairs Office, said personnel from 31st IB verified that among those dead was Franky Soriano (listed Frankie Joe Soriano in Celso Minguez Command blog), aka Samuel Guerero/Ka Greg Bañares.
She said that his body was claimed by a family member who confirmed that he was from San Roque, Nabua, Camarines Sur and a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. His wake is currently held in the house of his relatives in Bgy Bonot, Legaspi City.
She verified that the troops in Sorsogon, who were performing security operations, were not after his death and that his presence there was unknown to them.
Lieutenant Colonel Medel Aguilar, acting spokesman of 9th Infantry Division, Philippine Army in Bicol, said that most of dead there were high-ranking officials of NPA Sorsogon. He specifically identified Ka Miloy aka Dado as political instructor of the provincial guerilla unit (PGU).
Among those listed by 9ID but were not accounted by Celso Minguez Command on its blog were Arnel Estiller, aka Ariston, leader of the small NPA unit encountered in Juban, a certain Alicia, aka Ja/Jackelyn/Manay, of the regional guerilla unit (RGU) and Abby, RGU staff and video editor of Dagundong ng Bikol (DnB), the regular video broadcast of the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA in the Bicol Region airing via video compact disks (CDs) distributed here.
Army also listed a certain David Lunar, a resident of Barangay Gabao, Irosin, Sorsogon, who might be the same person as Ka Rey (David Llunar) listed by Celso Minguez Command.
The NPA Command also named in its blog Ka Miloy (Pehing Hipa), Ka Nel (Christine Puche), Ka Gary (Ted Palacio), Ka Rey (David Llunar), Ka Nene (Romero Añonuevo), Ka Jay (William Villanueva, Jr), at Ka Kevin (Ailyn Calma) as those 'martyred' among their ranks in the same encounter.
Soriano,40, died in the company of his 'party wife', Christine Puche who is known as Ka Nel in the communist movement. Puche was said to be a graduate from the University of the Philippines.
A relative who requested anonymity said that Soriano met Puche sometime in 2000 when he was actively involved in protest rallies against former President Joseph Estrada.
The duo married later and had two young children who were left to the care of Puche's parents in Legaspi City.
Born in San Isidro village, Libmanan town in Camarines Sur, Soriano was raised by his parents who are both public school teachers. He was the eldest among three siblings, one of whom is also a public school teacher like his parents.
Since 2008, Soriano disappeared and was never heard of by his closest relatives.
Most of his friends and relatives were surprised that he was the voice of the NPA in Bicol under the nom de guerre Greg Banares. They only learned about this fact when the CPP-NPA-NDF published his real name on its website after his death.
Abandon armed struggle
Col Joey Kakilala, 53, the Commander of the Army's 903rd Infantry Brigade based in Castilla town in Sorsogon said that the people in the community are already fed up by the oppressive collection of extortion money by the CPP-NPA-NDF.
"We receive complaints from the civilian residents about these extortion activities carried out by heavily-armed members of the NPA. It is our constitutional mandate to protect the people from any armed threats," said Kakilala, an awardee of the prestigious Presidential Lingkod Bayan and Metrobank Foundation's The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS).
Kakila said that his troops have continued its focused-military operations against NPA extortionists in his area of responsibility.
He said that it is high time that the remnants of the bandit group think about their options.
"We are not rejoicing over the deaths of these fellow kababayans but we have a mandate to perform. The NPA has to abandon the use of armed struggle and instead, join us in solving our common problems," he said.