Ex-Union Chief Charged In Slayings -- Tony Baruso Was Long A Suspect In 1981 Killings Of Two Activists

Constantine B. ``Tony'' Baruso was arrested at his Tacoma home last night in connection with the slayings of two young men at an Alaskan cannery workers union office in Seattle in 1981.

Baruso, 62, president of the Alaska Cannery Workers Union in 1981 when the two were gunned down, was a suspect, but he never was charged. The King County prosecutor's office had recently re-opened the investigation.

Police say Baruso has been charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the slayings of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes, cannery-union leaders and activists against Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippines at the time.

Baruso is in the King County Jail on $500,000 bail.

The motives for the slayings included control of the union and gambling, and Philippine politics, according to court documents.

Prosecutors contend in court documents that loss of control of the cannery union, which prosecutors allege gave Baruso kick-backs, is the one of the apparent reasons Baruso had the two union reformers killed.

Viernes and Domingo were making changes that threatened Baruso's authortiy to dispatch foremen and control gambling intersts in Alaska, according to the documents.

Prosecutors also allege that Baruso was a Marcos supporter and that at the time of their deaths, Domingo and Viernes were active in organizing opposition to the Marcos regime.

Just before the murders, Baruso made a trip to San Francisco where he apparently received $15,000 from Dr. Leonilo Malabed, who was recognized as a Marcos representative in this country, according to court papers.

When confronted about the San Francisco meeting, Baruso denied taking the trip but airline receipts and a credit card receipt later verified that he took the journey, the documents state.

The charges against Baruso also note that Judge Barbara Rothstein, who heard the civil trial in U.S. District Court, had found ``the defendant (Baruso) conspired with Ferdinand Marcos and Dr. Malabed in a conspiracy to cause the deaths of Domingo and Viernes.''

Three members of the Tulisan gang, Pompeyo Benito Guloy Jr., and Jimmy Bulosan Ramil and Fortunato Tony Dictado, were sentenced to life imprisonment without parole in connection with the slayings.

The court papers filed this week reveal that Dictado told an acquaintance that ``he would get rid of Viernes. The acquantance is identified as Robert San Pablo, a foreman who had been dispatched to an Alaska cannery by Baruso.

Also, on May 31, the day before the murders, Jimmie Ramil, the brother of Gene Ramil, one of the three who as charged with the murders, also told San Pablo that Dictado ``was going to kill Viernes the next day,'' the papers state.

The King County prosecutor's office agreed late last year to re-examine the murders in light of evidence turned over by survivors of the two slain men following the civil suit.

The families of Domingo and

Viernes won that suit against the estate of Marcos, who died in exile in September, and his widow, Imelda. Baruso also was a defendent in that suit. A six-member jury decided that the Marcoses were conspirators in the deaths of the two men in 1981 and were negligent in failing to control their intelligence network. The jury awarded the families $15 million.

Terry Mast, Domingo's widow, said this morning, ``We have always believed he was involved and wanted everyone involved in the murders to be brought to trial.''

Mast is now president of the cannery union.

She and Cindy Domingo, Silme's Domingo's sister, headed the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes, which has fought for justice in the case since the murders.

``There were times when we ran up against road blocks in the civil suit, but we knew we were right and we did win our case,'' Mast said.

Mast said she hopes Baruso's arrest will not end the investigation. The committee said repeatedly during the nine years that others were involved as well.

Tony Savage, who represented Baruso in the civil trial, said he knew nothing of the arrest until this morning.

``I have heard nothing, but I have to assume that someone gave them (prosecutors) something new because every piece of this has been run through the public mill 18 times already,'' Savage said.

He was to visit Baruso in jail.

Baruso was convicted in 1984 of embezzlement, mail fraud and filing false records as a union official and was sentenced to three years in prison by federal Judge Jack Tanner.

-- Times staff reporter Julie Emery contributed to this report.