Former Abra governor Valera falls from grace
BAGUIO CITY—Former Abra Gov. Vicente “Vicsyd” Valera was convicted on Sept. 30 by Judge Roslyn Rabara-Tria of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court for the murder of Abra Rep. Luis “Chito” Bersamin Jr. on Dec. 16, 2006.
In her decision, Tria said Valera and his coaccused were part of a grand conspiracy to eliminate Bersamin, who was gunned down while attending the wedding of his niece in Quezon City.
Yet during Bersamin’s burial, attended by about 6,000 Abreños on Dec. 27 nine years ago, the names of Valera and the suspected mastermind could not be mentioned and were only implied in metaphors.
“No to Tyranny,” “Huwag mag-deny. Bistado Ka,” and “Aray Abra (in reference to the province’s festival, Arya Abra). Ania ti Basol Ko (What is my Sin)?” said some of the placards carried by mourners that sunny day.
“Abra, wake up. You know the face of Agum (greed) and Apal (envy),” said then Court of Appeals Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the slain lawmaker’s brother, during the necrological service at Abra High School.
“I ask you to spit on whatever he stepped on,” Lucas Bersamin, now a Supreme Court associate justice, said in Ilocano.
Ten years ago, the name of Valera, then the province’s governor, was said only in whispers.
He was the political kingpin of Abra and a feared one at that. He wanted to be known as “Kaballo” (horse) and was often seen in town riding a white horse.
He wore his hair in a pompadour complete with sideburns. It was interesting to note that he maintained his pompadour during his conviction although it was obviously dyed black.
The murder of Bersamin was the last straw for the Abreños. As Valera would later say in his defense, he would not conspire with anyone as the Bersamins were close relatives. He said their mothers were close to each other and that their ancestral houses near the plaza of the capital Bangued were even connected by a wooden bridge.
The bridge was cut days after the murder to signify the rift between the two families. Even as he maintained his innocence, Valera went into hiding after the murder of Bersamin and was arrested in 2009.
So why would the unmentionable do the unmentionable?
The suspect in the 2006 murder of Mayor Ysrael Bernos of La Paz town, one of the leading opposition leaders against Valera, was the one who pinned Valera for political conspiracy. Bernos was shot dead while watching a basketball game on Jan. 13, 2006, at the La Paz town plaza.
Freddie Dupo, Bernos’ vice mayor in 2006 and one of the suspects in the Bersamin murder, became a state witness. He said Valera met with him in La Union province to arrange the murder of Bersamin because he reneged on his supposed promise not to run for his third term so Valera’s wife, Ma. Zita Claustro Valera, would replace him. The gunman, Jerry Turqueza, remains at large.
During the 2010 elections, “Agum ken Apal” became the campaign slogan of Valera’s enemies.
Bersamin’s brother, Eustaquio “Takit” Bersamin, then based in Los Angeles, California, went home and ran and won as governor.
Lagayan Mayor Ma. Cecilia Seares-Luna, who openly fought Valera and was almost killed in an ambush during the campaign, won the race for the lone congressional seat in Abra.
In 2013, Luna was replaced by Jocelyn Valera-Bernos, the widow of Bernos. Rosario “Chari” Bersamin, the slain lawmaker’s daughter, was elected Bangued councilor before she became Abra vice governor.
“We were saddened but justice has to prevail as a crime has to be paid even if we are relatives,” Governor Bersamin said about Valera’s conviction.
“We are satisfied with the decision. But how can we share it with our dad? He is already dead,” said Chari, who became the head of the family after her mother, Evelyn, died of cancer.
A day after the conviction, Chari went home to Bangued and had a “selfie” with her family at her father’s tomb.
“Justice is served!” she wrote on her Facebook wall. “May you rest in peace Papang ko #mailiwkamiunaykenka (We miss you so dearly).”
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