Vicsyd, Chito and El
Former Abra Gov. Vicente “Vicsyd” Valera was convicted last week by Judge Roslyn Rabara-Tria of Quezon City RTC Branch 94 for the murder of Abra Rep. Luis “Chito” Bersamin on December 16, 2006. Judge Tria in her decision said that Valera together with his co-accused were part of a grand conspiracy to eliminate Bersamin.
Yet almost ten years ago during Bersamin’s burial, his was the name that cannot be mentioned. That day on December 27, 2006, about 6,000 residents of Abra joined the funeral procession of their beloved congressman who was gunned down while attending the wedding of his niece in Quezon City.
The name of the alleged mastermind was only implied in metaphors. “No to Tyranny," "Huwag magdeny. Bistado Ka," and "Aray Abra (in reference to the province's festival, Arya Abra). Ania ti Basol Ko (What is my Sin)?" were among the placards carried that sunny day.
"Abra, wake up. You know the face of Agum (greed) and Apal (envy)," said then Court of Appeals Justice Lucas Bersamin, Chito’s brother, during the necrological service at the Abra High School. "I ask you to spit on whatever he stepped on," he said in Ilocano.
Ten years ago, the name of then Abra Gov. Vicente “Vicsyd” Valera was only said 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 last week although it was obviously dyed black.
Prior to the murder of Chito Bersamin, the murder of three opposition mayors were linked to him. During that burial march, the faces of Tineg Mayor Clarence Benwaren (shot dead in November 7, 2002 inside a church in Laguna), Tubo Mayor Jose Segundo (shot dead in his town in December 27 2001) and La Paz Mayor Marc Ysrael Bernos (shot dead in his hometown in January 13, 2006). Bernos, who was 32 at that time, was the leading opposition leader against Valera when he was shot at close range while watching basketball.
The murder of Bersamin was the last straw for the otherwise patient and long-suffering Abrenos. As Vicsyd would later say in his defense, he would not conspire with anyone as the Bersamins were close relatives. He said that their mothers were close relatives and that their ancestral houses near the Bangued plaza 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 maintains his innocence up to now, Vicsyd went into hiding after the murder of his cousin and surfaced only when he was arrested in 2009.
So why would the unmentionable do the unmentionable? It was ironic that the suspect in the murder of Mayor Bernos, Freddie Dupo (who was his vice mayor at that time) was the one who pinned Valera for political conspiracy.
Dupo, who became state witness, said that Valera met with him in La Union to arrange the murder of Bersamin because he reneged on his alleged promise not to run for his third term so that Valera’s wife, Ma. Zita Claustro Valera would replace him. The gunman, Jerry Turqueza, remains at large.
During the 2010 elections that followed Bersamin’s murder, “Agam ken Apal” became the campaign slogan of Valera’s enemies. Eustaquio “Takit” Bersamin, a sheriff in Los Angeles, California, went home to become the governor. Lagayan Mayor Ma. Cecelia Seares-Luna, who openly fought Valera and was almost killed in an ambush during the campaign, replaced Bersamin in the Congress. She was later replaced by Jocelyn Valera-Bernos, the widow of Marc Ysrael. Charito Bersamin, Chito’s daughter, became Bangued councilor and is now Abra’s Vice Governor.
“We were saddened but justice has to prevail as a crime has to be paid even if we are relatives,” said Gov. Bersamin about the conviction.
"We are satisfied with the decision but how can we share it with our Dad. He is already dead," said Chari Bersamin, who became the head of the family after Chito’s wife, Evelyn, died months later after his death due to cancer.
A day after the conviction, Chari went home from Quezon City 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)”