An executive of a Filipino-American newspaper that has strongly opposed Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos was shot to death in his Glendale home Wednesday, a day after reporting a death threat to police.
Oscar Salvatierra, 41, and a second employee of the Philippine News had received mailed death threats Tuesday, according to Ernie Paraiso, the paper's Los Angeles office manager.
"We believe it is political, because the Philippine News is the most hard-hitting (anti-Marcos) newspaper in the U.S. and Canada," Heroico Aguiluz, an attorney who represents the paper, said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
Aguiluz said the paper considers Marcos "our principal suspect."
Other anti-Marcos Filipino activists, however, cautioned that there could be nonpolitical motives for the killing. And the Philippine Consulate in Los Angeles charged that Marcos critics were attempting to "exploit" Salvatierra's death for political purposes.
Salvatierra, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was shot in the bedroom of his home in mid-morning Wednesday after the gunman or gunmen apparently entered through a window, Paraiso said. Police said that they were called by Salvatierra's mother, who was in the home and heard the shots.
In Washington, Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) said that he has asked the FBI to look into the killing. Cranston said he spoke with Alex Esclamado, publisher of the San Francisco-based weekly paper, and that Esclamado "believes all this is the work of Marcos agents, and intended to intimidate him into ceasing his opposition to the Marcos regime."
"On the basis of Marcos' behavior in the Philippines, there is every reason to believe that Mr. Esclamado's suspicions are well-founded," Cranston said, referring to the hotly contested Philippine election in which Marcos was declared the victor last week over Corazon Aquino amid allegations of fraud. "What Marcos has done to his own country is criminal. He must not be permitted to export his criminal activities to this country."
FBI Will Investigate
Fred Reagan, a spokesman in the Los Angeles office of the FBI, said Wednesday that the bureau will enter the investigation.
"We're trying to verify information now to determine what direction the investigation will take," Reagan said. The investigation will look into "the possibility of terrorism," he said.
Sgt. Alex Salazar of the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart Division said that Salvatierra had come to the division Tuesday night with the death-threat letter he had received.
"A report was taken and it was handled like a regular death-threat letter," Salazar said. "He had had three prior ones in the past. He wasn't too concerned at the time. Apparently they get a lot of them at the paper. He made his report and went on his way."
Sought No Protection
Salvatierra did not request any special police protection, Salazar added.
As the newspaper's Los Angeles bureau chief and marketing director, Salvatierra was in charge of the business operations of a small office, did not write articles and was not in the forefront of anti-Marcos activities in Los Angeles.
Copies of the death threat letter, released by the Philippine News, show a brief message formed by words clipped from newspapers and magazines, then pasted on paper: "Philippine News is a disgrace to the Filipino community in the U.S. Through your paper, your unwarranted accusations and lies have attacked your own countrymen. You should be ashamed to call yourselves Filipinos. For your crimes you are sentenced to death by execution."
The message came in an envelope postmarked in Los Angeles Feb. 14, one day before Salvatierra made a rare public appearance as a spokesman for the Philippine News in a Channel 4 news interview.
The brief film clip, replayed Wednesday at the Philippine News office, showed Salvatierra saying: "I'm afraid that there's going to be a lot of killings, a lot of violence. A lot of the opposition leaders will either have to be put in jail or killed to prevent the will of the people (from being) expressed."
Paraiso said that Stan Aragon, the paper's senior account executive in Los Angeles, had also received a warning letter Tuesday with "only two words: 'You're next.' "
Salvatierra had an apparent brush with death once before, when a bomb was discovered last summer in the drawer of his desk, Paraiso said. Investigation of that incident proved inconclusive, he said.
Shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday, officers were called to Salvatierra's home on Kirkham Drive in an upper-middle-class north Glendale neighborhood. They found Salvatierra in a rear bedroom, according to Glendale police agent Christopher Loop.
He had been shot in the head, according to Esclamado. The killer had locked the bedroom door before fleeing, he added.
Salvatierra is survived by his wife and four children.