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URGENT Anti-Marcos Bureau Chief for Filipino Newspaper Shot to Death

February 20, 1986

GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) _ An executive of the Philippine News, a newspaper opposed to the regime of Ferdinand Marcos, was shot to death at home Wednesday after receiving a threatening note, authorities said.

Several shots were fired in Oscar Salvatierra’s bedroom at his single-story home in the foothills north of downtown Los Angeles, said police Sgt. Randy Tampa.

″The preliminary report indicated that the man (assassin) went through the window, that he shot Mr. Salvatierra in the head and then that he locked the door (to the bedroom). That was the mark of a professional killer,″ said Philippine News editor-publisher Alex Esclamado.

Aides to Sen. Alan Cranston, a longtime friend of Esclamado, said the FBI had been asked to protect Esclamado and other News executives who had received similar threats.

An unexploded bomb was discovered July 8 at the newspaper’s Los Angeles office, said police officer Willie Wilson.

Cranston said he was taking seriously suspicions that agents of the Marcos government were involved in the death.

″What Marcos has done to his country is criminal,″ Cranston said. ″He must not be permitted to export his criminal activities to this country.″

Marcos was opposed by Corazon Aquino in a bitter Feb. 7 election that was marked by violence and widespread allegations of fraud.

The newspaper published a 1982 story that said Marcos wore fake medals and that $9 million had been offered to Esclamado to cease publication, said Ben Aniceto, Los Angeles editor for the News.

Salvatierra’s elderly mother, who speaks no English, was in the house, about 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, and called police after she heard gunshots, Tampa said.

Police Agent Christopher Loop said the body, which had been shot more than once, was found in a back bedroom in home. FBI agents were on the scene, Loop said.

Police fanned out through the affluent neighborhood, but no witnesses were found, Tampa said.

At 4:36 p.m., as weeping relatives peered through a window, Salvatierra’s body was removed on a stretcher by police and coroner’s officials. A window screen also was removed as evidence.

Chris Lopez, a spokeswoman for Cranston, said the senator was notified by the San Francisco headquarters of the newspaper.

Salvatierra, 41, a naturalized American citizen with four children, had received a written warning Tuesday, said Aniceto. Salvatierra was Los Angeles bureau manager of the newspaper.

″Philippine News is a disgrace to the Filipino community in the U.S.,″ Aniceto quoted the note as saying.

″Through your paper your unwarranted accusations and lies have attacked your own countrymen. You should be ashamed to call yourselves Filipinos. So for your crimes, you are sentenced to death by execution.″

Cranston, a Democrat seeking a fourth term in the Senate, said in a statement that he had asked FBI director William H. Webster to investigate ″this atrocity.″

Cranston said he also asked Webster to protect Esclamado and the paper’s sales representative, Stan Aragon, and members of their families after they received similar threats.

The newspaper publishes six editions weekly and circulates 77,000 copies in the United States and Canada, most in California.

Cranston has been a longtime friend of Esclamado’s, aides said.

A letter to Aragon said: ″You are going to be next,″ Ms. Lopez said.

″Director Webster assured me he will get right on this matter,″ Cranston said.

The senator said Esclamado believed the killing was ″the work of Marcos’ agents and intended to intimidate him in ceasing his opposition to the Marcos regime. On the basis of Marcos’ behavior in the Philippines, there is even more reason to believe Mr. Esclamado’s suspicions are well founded.

″It would appear that we’re going to have an investigative interest in this matter,″ said FBI spokesman Fred Reagan.

Rep. Stephen Solarz, D-N.Y., said in Washington that he thought there was ″a very strong presumption here that the government of the Philippines was behind this assassination. It appears that they’ve decided to export their death squad activity from the Philippines to the United States. This is totally outrageous and utterly unacceptable.″

Larry Zabala, press attache to the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles, said, ″We are terribly distressed over this. We have known Mr. Salvatierra for a long while and have had friendly relations with him″ despite his anti- Marcos position.

″We urge local authorities to find those responsible for his death and bring them to justice,″ Zabala said.

The Philippines National Assembly, whose canvass is final, declared last Saturday that Marcos had won, but an independent poll-watchers’ group said its count showed Mrs. Aquino the victor. Marcos supporters hold two-thirds of the assembly seats.

In Washington on Wednesday, the Senate declared by an 85-9 vote that the Filipino elections were ″marked by such widespread fraud that they cannot be considered a fair reflection of the will of the people of the Philippines.″

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