Valera guilty of Bersamin slay

FORMER Abra 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.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 94 Judge Roselyn Tria 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.

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