ACCORDING TO the latest reports, the Bersamins of Abra are among 10 political families in the province supposedly under close watch by the Philippine National Police for maintaining private armies. But by many accounts, the Bersamins — whose most prominent member, Congressman Luis Jr., was gunned down last December — were mainly “fence-sitters” who maintained links with the two main groups battling over Abra.
I AM a warlord’s daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, relative, and friend. On my bloodline I blame the deaths of hundreds of men in Abra. But I am powerless to undo what members of my clan have wrought.
Many times I have cursed my forefathers for the tragedy of living in a place that is beautiful but awash in blood, that has nothing to offer but devastation, depression, and death. Even I cannot bear living in the land ruled by kith and kin, in the province built by years of my family members’ struggles to overpower each other.
IF I had to write a script for a movie on political violence, I could not come up with a better one than the ongoing live drama starring political bigwigs from the province of Abra. The assassination of Abra Congressman Luis Bersamin Jr. and his bodyguard outside a church — right after a wedding — last December 16 provides the slam-bang opening scene. Cut to assassins escaping on a motorcycle. Tracing the registration of the getaway vehicle leads to the arrest of one Rufino Panday, a former Army master sergeant, who identifies not only the assassins, but also the mastermind, who he says is Abra Governor Vicente Valera. Two weeks later comes the cinematic arrest of Governor Valera himself, shortly after he leaves the house of his alleged mistress at dawn. But of course there has to be a dramatic car chase first, and then there is the governor looking bug-eyed in a roomful of authorities and nosy media. Arrested with him are three bodyguards, and the police find in his new, hulking SUV an automatic assault rifle, six 45-caliber pistols, and a fragmentation grenade.
© 1989–2023 All rights reserved. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.