Mom decries how militant group stole her son’s dream

Frances Ern Mariveles dreamt of being a lawyer someday as he enrolled for college at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa, Manila in 2016, where he took political economy.

DREAM SHATTERED. Therese Fuentes’ son, Frances Ern (middle) in one of the rallies organized by militant group Anakbayan. Fuentes urged the group to return Frances and stop the recruitment of young people. (Photo courtesy of Mrs. Therese Fuentes)

In a phone interview on July 13, 2020, his mother, Therese Fuentes, said he was not able to finish even his first semester in college after he was recruited by militant youth group Anakbayan and would eventually join rallies and protest actions.

Three months after, she said her son became a full-time member of the group and abandoned school and even his own family.

Therese remembered her son very well – he was just 16 then, full of hope, and has always been a source of pride in the family for being an achiever.

“He was an intelligent kid, an achiever. He had big dreams. He graduated from high school and enrolled in PUP in 2016. He enrolled in political economy because he wanted to be a lawyer, but he didn’t get to finish even the first semester in college. We never thought that entering school to build his dream would only destroy that dream,” she said in Filipino.

Narrating her ordeal, Therese said she almost broke down because of worrying for her eldest son, Frances.

Therese said she even accompanied Frances when he enrolled in PUP, and could vividly remember his excitement at that time.

Every day, Frances would travel from General Trias in Cavite to get to school in Sta. Mesa, Manila.

He wouldn’t mind the distance and travel time and would go home every day and share with her things going at school.

“During the start of classes, he was always happy to tell me about things happening in school. He was excited that he was accepted in The Catalyst (campus paper), and he was made representative of 1st year students,” Therese said.

She said she remembers seeing Frances bringing home some leaflets and banner of Anakbayan, and that she did not give it much thought during that time.

When she discovered that Frances was no longer attending his classes despite being in school and that he would fail to come home often, she went to PUP.

“I went to PUP that time, I was crying. I reported to them that my son is not attending his classes and that he joined Anakbayan in school, but they only told me to just let my son attend rallies,” she said.

“During that time, I could not think clearly, I was always crying. I brought with me my youngest child who was only three years old then and we went to Manila from Cavite,” she added.

Reaching out

Frances, she said, should have graduated from college by now. But his family doesn’t even know where he is and how he is right now.

In the last four years, Therese could only count the times his son came home and visited them.

She said her only way of getting news about him or send him messages was through a certain Alex Danday, whom she said recruited Frances to join Anakbayan.

Therese said she would send a message to Danday to ask about Frances, and that she would be told: “She would tell me that my son is doing fine, that he is still alive. She was also the one who told me that my son is in the Visayas. I was surprised how far my son is”.

Whenever Frances wishes to come home, Therese said she would send him money for his fare.

Most of the time, he will arrive in the morning and by early afternoon, he’s all set to leave.

Frances never slept with them whenever he would come home.

To make the most out of it, Therese would always cook his son’s favorite dishes and tries as much as possible to make him feel that he is loved.

The last time Frances went home was in January this year.

She said the last time she was able to kiss and hug his son was in February when he paid her a visit at work.

During that time, Therese told Frances to go home.

“I told him that I want him to change and reminded him how I love him, that he has a family, to not to do anything bad and that I am here for him. He just nodded but we didn’t have any clear discussion,” she said.

Because Therese does not know who to approach to ask help to get his son back, she feels that her son’s last four years with Anakbayan were wasted years, and that the group has taken so much from their family.

‘Hands Off Our Children’

Just this month, Therese said Danday told her that she does not know where Frances is and that he is not with them.

But Therese said she does not believe what Danday said.

Therese said she recently learned about and contacted the group “Hands off our Children,” a group of parents whose children were reportedly recruited by various militant organizations.

With their support, Therese said she had the courage to finally break her silence and tell her story.

Therese always wanted to tell her son that she loves him so much and vowed to do everything in her capacity to help him.

“I love him so much. Please come home, you have a family waiting for you. Don’t believe their lies, just trust me,” she said.

She also urged Anakbayan to return Frances Ern and stop the recruitment of young people.

“Stop recruiting the youth. You have destroyed many families and the future of our children. I hope you will understand the pain that you have caused us. Give back Frances to us, and all the youths that you have recruited,” she said. (PNA)

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