BANGUED, Abra – Former Gov. Vicente Valera was found guilty of the 2006 murders of former Abra Rep. Luis Bersamin Jr. and his police bodyguard and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Further, Regional Trial Court Branch 94 Judge Roselyn Trial also meted Valera and his two co-accused, Rufino Panday and Leo Bello, of 12 years in prison for the frustrated murder of Bersamin’s driver Allan Sawadan.
“Per promulgation of sentence this morning, all accused in People vs Vicente Isidro Valera, Rufino Panday and Leo Bello were convicted of two counts of murder and one count of frustrated murder and sentenced to reclusion perpetua,” according to Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida V. Rueda-Acosta.
On Dec. 16, 2006, Bersamin was shot dead outside Mt. Carmel Parish Church in New Manila, Quezon City in broad daylight after attending the wedding of his niece as one of the sponsors.
The case became a cause celebre in 2006, particularly since Valera was then governor of the province and the killing of Bersamin spurred a realignment of provincial forces for the 2007 elections.
Valera also had a falling out with his former ally, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who even ordered then Ilocos regional police Chief Jesus Versoza to go after Valera. Versoza was later appointed Philippine National Police chief.
The hired gunman also shot Bersamin’s escort, SPO1 Adolfo Ortega, who died instantly, while his driver, Allan Sawadan, was wounded.
The gunman and his lookouts were caught on photograph of the wedding, which was used as evidence in court.
Valera, who was a childhood friend of Bersamin and former political ally, was arrested and detained since September 2009. He tried to run for public office in 2010, but lost his bid for the Abra governorship.
Panday reportedly served as the triggerman in the murder of the lawmaker but pointed to Valera as the mastermind behind the shooting to death of Bersamin right after coming out from the Mount Carmel church in New Manila, Quezon City where he attended the wedding rites of his niece.
Bersamin’s murder was planned by Valera and his cohorts in a beach resort in Luna, La Union sometime in 2005 but the same was only executed the following year.
The court issued a commitment order for Valera and his convicted cohorts to be detained at the National Bilibid Prison from their current detention area at the Manila District Jail located within the premises of Bicutan, Taguig City.
By Dexter A. See