As the May election is fast approaching and candidacies are filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the election fever surges even in Abra with announcements by alleged warring parties and individuals of their intention to run challenging each other, at least in the polls.
BY LYN V. RAMO AND ACE ALEGRE
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY — As the May election is fast approaching and candidacies are filed with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the election fever surges even in Abra with announcements by alleged warring parties and individuals of their intention to run challenging each other, at least in the polls.
The latest announcement was made in Baguio City by the kin of the late Rep. Luis “Chito” Bersamin Jr. Keith Bersamin, the slain solon’s brother. He recently told Baguio-based media that he is running for governor. He said he intends not to exact vengeance for his slain brother, but to carry on his brother’s plans.
Valera said he and his wife Bangued Mayor Ma. Zita Valera will be a tandem to watch for, without mentioning the positions the duo is seeking.
In a related development, while the Congress and other groups have put up a total of P1.5 million ($30,794.49 at an exchange rate of $1=P48.71) in cash reward for any information leading to the capture of the three main suspects in the congressman’s assassination, the slain solon’s eldest daughter disclosed in the same press conference here that another prospective major witness in the killing went on national broadcast recanting his earlier pronouncements.
Charito Bersamin, 40, said she was not surprised to learn that her slain father’s driver Allan Sawadan recanted his earlier statements. She said that some “influential hands” have probably used their money to silence the slain solon’s driver. Sawadan, who also sustained a gunshot wound from the attack on Bersamin in December 2006, went on national TV and a nationwide radio station and retracted his statement on the identity of the triggerman. Earlier, he provided the information from which the cartographic sketch of the alleged suspects in the killings of Bersamin and his bodyguard was based.
The younger Bersamin said that of the P1.5 million reward, P800,000 ($16,423.73) came from the House of Representatives, P200,000 ($4,105.93) from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the rest from organizations and the family circle.
Killers younger than suspects
In his later statement, Sawadan said over Bombo Radyo Laoag that the gunmen were young and not falling within the ages of former Constable Rufino Panday and former La Paz Vice Mayor Freddie Duppo, who are among those suspected of having a hand in the killing.
The interview was aired live in 48 provincial stations of Bombo Radyo Philippines in its noontime show on Wednesday, January 24.
Panday, who is in his late 50s, also recanted his earlier declaration that he was a look-out in the killing that was supposedly hatched in his presence and was allegedly funded by Abra Governor Vicente Valera.
Duppo, believed to be in hiding in the northern provinces after he was tagged by Task Force Bersamin as the team leader of the assassination, is also in his late 40s, according to reliable sources.
The alleged mastermind and his men
“We hold on to the evidence Sawadan and Panday have submitted to the court,” Bersamin said, as she repeatedly told the media that the three suspects are reportedly sighted in the Ilocos provinces. She alleged that three of the suspects, Sammy Taculao, Duppo and Dominador Barbosa are Abra Governor Vicente Valera’s men, the alleged mastermind in the killings.
Valera, according to Bersamin, is the slain solon’s uncle, not cousin as the former has earlier claimed. Charito Bersamin said she is not surprised if Valera is the suspected mastermind in the killing of her father because Bersamin was planning to run against him in May.
“They (have not been) on speaking terms since two years ago,” Charito said. She said the late congressman earlier signed a covenant that he would not seek a fresh mandate in Congress, but quipped that he was not going to break it because he was planning to run in the Abra gubernatorial race. The covenant was reportedly signed in the presence of Abra politicians including Valera.
The younger Bersamin said the family even decided to hire Sawadan, but he has not reported to work since the assassination.
The Bersamins had just lost Board Member James Bersamin to another assassin when the congressman was gunned down in Quezon City in December. Charito said her father used to have only two body guards, one assigned at home and another who used to go with him to Congress. But when the board member was killed, the family pleaded that he augments his security force.
“He was not so security-conscious,” she said. She recalled that often, the congressman would drop his body guard home and go home by himself. She said he used to receive death threats and even noticed two motorcycles tailing him before he was killed, but he did not tell any one in the family. “We learned of the threats after he died,” the younger Bersamin said.
Valera who denied allegations that he was the mastermind was earlier arrested for breaking a traffic regulation, but is out on bail. Police confiscated the firearms from his vehicle during his arrest.
Sawadan’s recantation derailed earlier theories of the government-formed Task Force Bersamin which is now into the thick of investigating the daring afternoon slay in front of the Mt. Carmel Church on Dec. 16 in New Manila, Quezon City.
“We will nail down the truth,” said Force Bersamin investigator Sr. Supt. Isagani Nerez. He offered no explanation though as he remains tight-lipped on the case and Sawadan’s recantation.
However, for Governor Valera’s allies and observers who are akin to Abra politics, Sawadan’s declaration has vindicated the governor who had complained of “persecution” and “trial by publicity.”
Valera, a lawyer, immediately brushed aside as “hearsay” Panday’s earlier statement to the police on his alleged involvement in the killing. He said his assertion of innocence is strengthened by Panday’s more recent allegation that he was “tortured” into making his earlier statement – an allegation that the Abra police has denied.
During Representative Bersamin’s burial in Bangued on Dec. 27, his older brother Justice Lucas Bersamin of the Court of Appeals urged police investigators to avoid shortcuts in their investigation. He was outraged and was heard saying, Valera, suspek ka na!” (Valera, you are now suspect!)
As this developed, Charito called on Abreños and visitors in Abra to be more understanding in the light of searches at certain checkpoints by the Task Force Bersamin. In the same manner, Valera claimed innocence over the killings before a crowd at the provincial capitol in Bangued recently. Lyn V. Ramo and Ace Alegre for NORDIS, with a report by Joseph Pangke/ posted by Bulatlat