By CECILLE SUERTE FELIPE
The Philippine Star
A Quezon City judge has suspended the hearing on the double murder of Abra Rep. Luis "Chito" Bersamin and his police escort two years ago.
Judge Luisito Cortez of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 84 suspended the hearing of the Bersamin case until March 28 pending the resolution of the motion by defense lawyer Galileo Angeles that the case should be transferred to a family court since one of the victims – Rolly Boy Labaja, 13 – is still a minor.
Labaja, a watch-your-car boy at the Mt. Carmel Church in New Manila, was wounded when several armed men ambushed Bersamin and his police escort Senior Police Officer 2 Adelfo Ortega at the church compound on Dec. 16, 2006.
Under Republic Act 8369, which established family courts, the family court will have jurisdiction if a minor is involved in a case. "Personally, I think it’s proper to raffle the case to a family court so that the case will be heard efficiently," government prosecutor Ferdinand Baylon told The STAR.
In case the judge rules in favor of raffling off the case to a family court, Baylon hopes that the next judge will consider all the proceedings in Cortez’s sala.
Before Cortez suspended the hearing, Baylon said Superintendent Franklin Mabanag of the Quezon City police was undergoing direct examination by the prosecution.
In his court testimony, Mabanag denied torturing one of the accused –Rufino Panday – into admitting his participation in the murder of Bersamin.
Panday, a former Army sergeant currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center at Camp Crame, admitted that he acted as a lookout in the killing of Bersamin perpetrated by his nephews Freddie Dupo, a former La Paz, Abra vice mayor; Salvador Barbosa; and Sunny Taculao.
Panday, one of the suspects who purchased the assassins’ get-away motorcycle, claimed former Abra governor Vicente Valera shelled out P5 million for the killing. He later recanted his statements but police say they have physical evidence to support Panday’s allegation.
Last month, police filed double murder charges against Valera and more than five others for Bersamin’s murder.
Aside from Valera, those charged were Leo Bello; Jerry Tarqueza; suspects known only as Jun, Jeff-Jeff, and Mel; and other John Does before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office, said Deputy Director General Jesus Verzosa, PNP deputy chief for administration.
Verzosa noted that the charges were anchored on the confession of Dupo and Taculao, who said Valera planned, ordered and financed the killing.
The suspects were also charged with frustrated murder for wounding two bystanders — Labaja and Allan Sawadan.
Verzosa noted that of the suspects only Dupo, Taculao and Panday are locked up in jail.
Dupo and Taculao were arrested in Baras, Rizal on Oct. 20, 2007. They said that while they were in hiding Valera sent them money on three occasions, all delivered by Bello.