EDITORIAL - Make this a deterrent
(The Philippine Star) - September 30, 2015 - 10:00am

Occasionally, justice is delivered in this country, and relatively quickly. It probably helped that both the victim and mastermind were prominent individuals. The brazenness of the attack also likely helped speed up the wheels of justice in the assassination of Luis Bersamin.

The former Abra congressman had just emerged from a wedding ceremony at the Mt. Carmel church in Quezon City on Dec. 16, 2006 when he was gunned down together with his bodyguard, Senior Police Officer 1 Adelfo Ortega. Bersamin’s driver Allan Sawadan and a 13-year-old parking attendant were also hit but survived.

Two men arrested shortly after the murders turned state witness and pointed to Bersamin’s political rival, former Abra governor Vicente Valera, as the mastermind. Two other suspects are at large. Yesterday, Judge Rosalyn Rabara-Tria of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court found Bersamin and his co-accused Rufino Panday and Sgt. Leo Bello guilty and sentenced them to life in prison for murder and frustrated murder.

The state witnesses had testified that Valera wanted Bersamin eliminated because the victim had reneged on a commitment not to seek another term and to give way to Valera’s wife. The judge was not swayed by Valera’s denial.

It’s been nearly nine years since the killings and Valera may still elevate his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court. But his conviction should make other politicians think twice before resorting to murder as the ultimate weapon against political rivals.

The conviction is a welcome development especially with the approach of the campaign period. For too long, assassination has been a favored method of permanently eliminating political rivals in this country. It is the worst way of undermining free elections and the people’s will, but politicians resort to murder because they know they can get away with it.

In every electoral exercise in this country, a death toll of 70 to 80 from political violence is seen as normal. As in the murders of journalists and left-wing militants, the perpetrators are emboldened by the failure of the state to send murderers behind bars. Bersamin’s case can serve as a warning and deterrent to further violence, but only if it does not become an isolated victory for justice.

ABRA ACIRC ADELFO ORTEGA ALLAN SAWADAN BERSAMIN JUDGE ROSALYN RABARA-TRIA OF THE QUEZON CITY REGIONAL TRIAL COURT LEO BELLO LUIS BERSAMIN MT. CARMEL QUEZON CITY VALERA
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