Stop to violent Abra politics pushed with Valera conviction

>> Tuesday, October 6, 2015

BANGUED, Abra -- The conviction of former Abra Governor Vicente “Vicsyd” Valera, Wednesday for being the brains in the murder of slain former Congressman Luis “Chito” Bersamin was hoped to put closure to violent politics of the province even as families of the two protagonists showed anguish and happiness over the court decision. 

Valera, along with his co-accused RufinoPanday and Leo Bello, were sentenced to reclusion perpetua ” (40 years imprisonment) by Judge Roselyn Rabara-Tria of the Regional Trial Court Branch 94 in Quezon City for the gunslaying of Bersamin and his bodyguard, SPO1 Adelfo Ortega, during a wedding at Mount Carmel Church in New Manila, Quezon City on Dec. 16, 2006.

Valera, Panday, and Bello were also convicted of frustrated murder for wounding Bersamin’s driver, Allan Sawadan, and meted out an additional 12 years in jail.

“We are saddened because he (Valera) is a relative. But justice should prevail and he should pay the price of the crime he did,” said Abra Governor Eustaquio “Takits” Bersamin, who is the slain congressman’s brother but also a nephew of the convicted former governor.

For her part, AbraVice Gov. Rosario Chari Bersamin, the daughter of the murder victim in the case, described the decision as unexpected.

She said that while she is happy with the decision of the court, it will not bring back the life of her father. “The most important thing is that they were given justice,” she added.

Vicsyd Valera, was Lagangilang’s brightest hometown boy. He became a lawyer in 1976 and earned a lot of friends in the political scene. When “People Power” swept across the nation in 1986, Valera was appointed Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Capitol of Abra, while his nephew Chito Bersamin was appointed as OIC-mayor of the capital town of Bangued.

When elections came in 1998, Vicsyd was elected governor and reelected to a second term from 1992-1995.

Vicsyd went on to run for congressman and won in the 1995 elections and held the position until 2001, during which, Chito Bersamin, took his place as governor.

Being relatives, they maintained political control over Abra, exchanging these top elective positions for years.

But a year before the 2007 elections, the political climate changed and the relationship between the two soured with Bersamin being rumored to run against Valera for the governorship.

That electoral showdown never materialized with Valera eliminating his political rival and relative.

The conviction of Valera for the murder of Bersamin is hoped to put a closure to a bitter episode in Abra’s political history involving its two biggest politicians of their time.

Chito has been known in the province as a peaceful man, who helped resolve crimes in the province and put education as his priority with the end goal of solving poverty.

His murder was the punctuation point to political killings that have gone on but were seldom reported in national media prior to his death.

“I was silently living in the US when that happened. I felt bad for the death of my brother which was just because of politics and it saddened me more that the accused is a close family relative,” Gov. TakitsBersamin recalled.

Before the 2007 elections, Takits returned to Abra and run as governor with the goal of bringing peace in the province.

Political violence spread during the 2007 election season, but this time, they were exposed, earning for Abra the media tag “killing fields of the North.”

An outpouring of support from Abrenians, saddened by the murder of their congressman, got Takits elected.

When Takits was installed as governor, he vowed to unite Abrenians and end political killings as a tribute to his slain brother.

It was a tall order but the new governor had enlisted the support of the police and the military in restoring order.

By election year 2013, with the help of then Police Regional Office – Cordillera director, Benjamin Magalong, zero casualty was recorded in the province.

Takits said he had reached out to his brother’s killer.  -- With a report from Freddie G. Lazaro


157 Baguio folks get lot titles in Camp John Hay

BAGUIO CITY — The waiting ended for Catalina Torcedo, after she received the transfer certificate of title (TCT) over the land where she resided from the time she was working for the Americans inside Camp John Hay until the present.

Manang Catalina as well as Ruben Genove, who represented his deceased parents in behalf of the heirs of Dominador Genove were among 157 beneficiaries who were issued their Certificate of Title over the land they occupied here in Barangay Scout Barrio on Sept. 21 during “Health and wellness” program of John Hay Management Corp. at Scout Barrio covered court.

They were the actual occupants to the lot they applied for titling, whose papers were processed by JHMC, subsidiary of the government-owned Bases Conversion Development Authority.

 Only six other land titles have not been released to applicants due to delay in submission of their requirements.

Catalina now has full ownership of the 439 square-meter lot, which used to be part of the Camp John Hay reservation, while heirs of Genove acquired  a 495 square meter lot.

 During the awarding, both beneficiaries, Torcedo and Genove, thanked JHMC and BCDA for the award of their TCTs.  

They said they were grateful to JHMC president and CEO Jamie Eloise M. Agbayani, for guiding them in processing of their TCTs.

 BCDA president and CEO lawyer ArnelPaciano Casanova earlier said titling of the lands was commitment that will give residents peace of mind as the where their residences stand is now theirs.


Bulacan couple slain after spat with Ilocos political family kin

Farmers groups hit PNP for inaction 

SAN JUAN DEL MONTE, Bulacan -- Farmers’ groups have denounced the police’s alleged lack of interest in solving the case of two of their members, who were killed over what appears to be a land dispute here.

“Days have passed since Roger Vargas and his wife Lucila were shot dead, but the police have yet to issue any report or update on the case,” Kilusang Magbubukidng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary-general Antonio Flores said.

KMP and another farmers’ group Tanggol Magsasaka lambasted the municipal police for its alleged failure to investigate the crime.

The Vargases were members of the Nagkakaisang Magsasakang San Isidro and Alyansang Magbubukid sa Bulacan.

Flores said the victims were beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and were awarded a certificate of land ownership for a property in Barangay San Isidro.

The property is reportedly being claimed by a political family from Ilocos.

The couple figured in a spat with the family a day before they were shot dead on Sept. 19.

“We were informed that it took the San Jose Del Monte police six days to record the incident on the blotter,” Flores said.

He said the police cited the absence of a complainant for not immediately recording the incident.


Probe pushed on Army rights abuses in Cagayan

RIZAL, Cagayan – A partylist group urged the government particularly the Commission on Human Rights to investigate alleged numerous violations against indigenous peoples in Zinundungan Valley here allegedly by military forces.

This, after fact finding mission conducted by multi-sectoral groups from Cagayan and its adjacent regions in Zinundungan Valley from Sept. 16-19.

Jill K. Carino, second nominee of  Sulong Katribu Party list said,  "Atrocities committed by military elements belonging to the 5th ID, 502nd Infantry Brigade at 17th Infantry Battalion in Zindungan Valley are shocking, to say the least.” The FFM report revealed how “soldiers mercilessly violated the human rights of the indigenous Aggay, Malaweg and Kalinga, as well as, of peasant leaders and civilians.”

Among the grave violations committed, the report said, were abduction, torture, and illegal arrest of Aggay leader, Mendo Bisiotan along with Marlon Baganay and Orlando Duruin, a senior citizen in Sitio Daligan, San Juan in June 20.

Another case was threat, harassment, intimidation and endangering lives of peasant leaders.

Among victims were Steward Garon, ElingAzucena, Rafael Guimay, all from the Malaweg Farmers’ Association.

Other victims include Felipe Bisiotan, Ambona Batolan of the Timpuyog dagiti Mannalon nga Aggay and ArisInfante, Raul Ladino, Lina Ladino and Edward Callueng of the Lipatan Farmers Association.

Other cases included filing of trumped-up charges against civilians such as kidnapping with homicide; collective rights of the Aggays such as illegal search and divestment of properties, gun toting, harassment, threat and intimidation; violations against the rights of women and children; encampment on barangay hall, health center and residential houses; and coddling a criminal.

“Firsthand accounts of abduction, illegal arrest, torture, threat, harassment, intimidation, and filing of trumped up charges, among others, remind us of the abuses committed during Martial Law.” Carino said, herself a former political detainee during Martial Law.

Carino urged authorities and the Commission on Human Rights to immediately conduct a humanitarian and investigative mission and take steps to bring the perpetrators to justice. 


No to jueteng: New Cordillera police director

CAMP DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet -- A few days after he assumed office on Sept 22, 2015, the attention of Chief Supt. Ulysses Justiniani Abellera to the traffic problem in Baguio was called by no less than Philippine National Police Chief Ricardo Marquez.

Apparently, a “concerned citizen” presently stuck in a traffic jam somewhere in the city informed Marquez of the actual traffic situation via text messaging, who in turn forwarded the information to Abellera. 

As reported, traffic snarls in Baguio delayed travel time of residents in the city and the neighboring towns of Benguet during rush hours. This situation has been blamed on traffic experiments that caused the closure of road intersections and rerouting of previous directions.

When asked about his plans with a deteriorating traffic situation,  Abellera, the newly appointed Philippine National Police Regional Director for Cordillera said, “…there has to be a traffic summit involving all stakeholders to include public transport drivers and operators, private motorists, school representatives, public officials, police and the media.”

Abellera said the traffic issue in Baguio has become a complicated problem and is not easy to solve, “but we’ll try our best to make significant improvement of the situation.” He said further that sometimes even his wife blamed the traffic cops for the long line of immobile motor vehicles.

However, Abellera maintained that aside from the usual reasons, other matters have to be considered such as the increasing volume of motor vehicles running on any road and a traffic design that has to be studied by traffic engineers.

On peace and order, the newly appointed Police Regional Office-Cordillera director talked about OPLAN Lambat-Sibat, the latest anti-crime approach that will be applied exclusively to fight criminality especially in crime-prone urban centers.

As a sustainable method employed in checking crime incident reports and pinpointing crime hotspots in order that the police is able to provide the most appropriate action; Abellera said, OPLAN Lambat-Sibat will be launched in all regions in the country. 

On jueteng and illegal gambling, Abellera said the “no take” policy among all police units is still the prevailing rule. He did not elaborate as to what actions could be applied against jueteng and gambling operators in the Cordillera whose illegal businesses thrived since authorities stopped raiding them.

Abellera is a lawyer and member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines since 2002, a consistent honor pupil of Magsaysay Elementary School and the valedictorian at Don Bosco High School in Baguio City.

He has been a member of the police organization since graduating from the Philippine Military Academy Class ’84, and rose through the ranks by serving in many capacities as head of various police offices in the country, reaping awards and citations as he went up the organizational ladder.

Supt. Abellera who was born in Gen. Santos City spent childhood in New Lucban Barangay, Baguio City and Asin, Nangalisan, Tuba, Benguet. – March L. Fianza


Isabela town mayor suspended

STA. MARIA, Isabela – The municipal mayor here was suspended by the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly poking a gun at a supporter of his political rival in the last local elections.

Mayor Gilbert Masigan was ordered suspended for nine days and temporarily replaced by Vice Mayor Geoffrey Formoso, who was the complainant in the case.

Provincial interior and local government director Elpidio Duruin installed Formoso as acting mayor and Councilor ErolLagui as vice mayor.

The two officials took their oath before Cabagan Judge Jesus Torio II on Wednesday.

Asigan reportedly threatened to shoot the supporter of former mayor Omar Masigan, who happened to be his cousin and running mate of Formoso.

Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard Mosquera rejected Masigan’s defense that the complaint against him had nothing to do with his official function as mayor.

“The respondent’s action reflected his non-compliance with the law,” Mosquera said in a ruling


Bongbong rallies Region 1 behind him in poll bid

SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union - Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. worked double-time to swing by the provinces in Region 1 last week to rally support for his plan seeking higher office, apparently trying to gauge whether or not there is a so-called “solid North” behind him.

Here, on Sept. 25. Marcos got the crowd into a frenzy when he announced he will be running for higher office in 2016.

“I was still looking at all options two or three months ago. But the reelection plan (as senator) already stopped and we plan for a higher position,” he said.

But when asked which position he would be seeking, he replied: “Be patient.”

The son of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos said he is still in consultation with different groups because “any national campaign needs to have support of the party.”

While he was pertaining to the Nationalista Party (NP) to which he belongs, he confirmed talks with other parties.

Asked if he is likely to run as the vice presidential candidate of Vice President JejomarBinay of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), Marcos said: “We have not finalized any tandem or partnership with anyone yet. It will be announced by me.”

Marcos was welcomed and toured in the museum of San Fernando City by Mayor Pablo C. Ortega, who just recently took his oath as a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

The next day, the senator visited Dagupan City and was more straightforward with his intentions in 2016, asking the people of Pangasinan to join the Ilocanos in supporting him.

Region 1 is composed of the provinces of La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte, from which he hails and served as governor.

Citing how the vote of the “solid North” propelled him to the Senate in 2010, Marcos appealed for a repeat of their support when he seeks higher office.

As a parting shot, he told the Pangasinan people that he will make his announcement of candidacy “very soon.” – Liezle BasaInigo and Erwin G. Beleo


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