Destabilization plan: Light-a-Fire Movement, April 6 Liberation Movement, Movement for a Free Philippines

Tuesday December 20, 2016 ()

Geny Lopez and Steve Psinakis

The warning actually came late as the "destabilization plan" was already being implemented. This subject deserves longer discussion, inasmuch as it led to a long, high-voltage meeting between Ninoy Aquino and First Lady Imelda Marcos in New York in December 1980.

In December 1979, government agents discovered this destabilization plan, which was separate from (but synergetic with) the armed struggle being waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines through its New People's Army.

Destabilization plan: Light-a-Fire Movement, April 6 Liberation Movement, Movement for a Free Philippines

Eduardo B. Olaguer, then 44, a geodetic engineer who was a professor at the Asian Institute of Management, authored the master plan. Steve Psinakis described it as "a well-studied, long-term and complete plan for the overthrow" of the martial-law regime.

On December 14, 1979, while Ninoy was on his Yuletide furlough, American citizen Ben Z. Lim, then 61, went to the Manila International Airport to retrieve a piece of luggage. There, intelligence operatives arrested him while carrying the luggage packed with explosives and incendiary materials.

In his 1981 book Two Terrorists Meet, Psinakis portrayed Lim as an almost inoffensive man, a Boeing engineer who had been medically retired. Journalist Sylvia Mayuga, however, wrote that Ben "Nonoy" Lim was, indeed, "one of the Filipino immigrants who trained for terrorism in Arizona with other members of the Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP)". The MFP was founded in the US by former Sen. Raul S. Manglapus in May 1973, with himself as chairman.

Psinakis at least admitted that he knew both Nonoy Lim and Olaguer. The retired engineer, whom Olaguer introduced to him in 1978 in San Francisco, California, had implicated him as the supplier of the explosives. That, Psinakis did not admit.

Lim's revelations also led to the capture of Olaguer and other members of the "Light-a-Fire Movement" in the Philippines. At the time, they had been operating in Manila for "barely eleven months," according to Mayuga. When the charges of terrorism and subversion were filed on May 30, 1980, Steve Psinakis, in absentia, was included among the respondents.

Targets for assassination

The charges were amended on July 30, 1980, and specified the following:

Unlawful possession of explosives and incendiary devices; Conspiracy to assassinate President and Mrs. Marcos; Conspiracy to assassinate Cabinet members Juan Ponce Enrile, Francisco "Kit" Tatad and Vicente Paterno; Conspiracy to assassinate the late Agriculture Secretary Arturo Tangco, the late Local Governments Secretary Jose Rono and Education Secretary Onofre Corpus; arson of nine buildings; attempted murder of Commission on Election Chairman Leonardo Perez and Manila Times columnist Teodoro Valencia and Armed Forces Chief Generals Romeo Espino and Presidential Security Command head Fabian Ver; and Conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion and inciting to rebellion.

While pleading "not guilty", Olaguer bravely admitted his role when the trial started on August 14, 1980, 10 days after Ninoy's Asia Society speech. Olaguer declared before the military tribunal: "I solemnly declare that I have taken up arms against the corrupt and illegal dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos." His point was, rebellion wasn't a crime at all, but a duty (he should have reminded Cory so, during the series of coup attempts against her).

Olaguer and his chief lieutenant, Othoniel Jimenez, the designer of the crude incendiary contraptions used in the arson campaign, revealed their Movement's links to Manglapus's MFP. He also admitted that their campaign to destabilize the government was, as Mayuga wrote, "originally approved by Manila-based opposition elders Lorenzo Tañada, Francisco 'Soc' Rodrigo and Jovito Salonga."

On December 4, 1984, Olaguer and his codefendants were sentenced to death by electrocution. Fortunately for them, while the issue was pending in the Supreme Court on the basis of petitions, the Edsa rebellion took place. The revamped Supreme Court of the Cory Aquino regime on May 22, 1987, disregarded the verdict of Military Commission No. 34, as well as those of all other military tribunals where the defendants were civilians.

This ruling became known as the Olaguer Doctrine. This controversial doctrine also provided a basis for overturning the death-by-musketry sentence imposed on Ninoy by Military Commission No. 2, clearing his name posthumously. The arrest of virtually all the "operators" of the Light-a-Fire Movement did not spell the end of Olaguer's "Destabilization Plan". Mayuga wrote:

"Later, Ninoy Aquino and Steve Psinakis adapted and continued the plan in what would be known as the April 6 Liberation Movement [A6LM] [Othoniel] Jimenez continues."

The change came in the terrorist genre used: from arson to bombings. The A6LM was professional while the Light-a-Fire Movement was amateurish. Olaguer's AIM colleague, Gaston "Gasty" Z. Ortigas, who was a strategist for the Light-a-Fire Movement, escaped to America, but wisely "kept his distance from the Psinakis-Aquino operation."

The man Psinakis deserves some discussion. According to the Truth and Justice Foundation, his having become a journalist, apparently, was dictated not just by an urge to defame the Marcoses, but to access official information from various American offices, and to establish influential contacts in American government and institutions. He professed to have been in the import-export business during the time, but was apparently too preoccupied with his MFP activities that he made no mention of the items he was importing and exporting.

Psinakis used to be the operations engineer of the Manila Electric Co., when it was still one of Don Eugenio Lopez Sr.'s corporate assets. Psinakis had married Presentacion "Pressy" Lopez, the only daughter of the oligarch, and one of Mrs. Marcos's "Blue Ladies" in the 1960s.

In his book Two Terrorists Meet, Psinakis made it appear that the falling out between the Marcoses and Don Eugenio Lopez started after the arrest of Eugenio "Geny" Lopez Jr. on November 27, 1972. The elder Lopez would later denounce the Marcoses and Romualdezes for allegedly using front men to take over his business empire.

Geny Lopez, Psinakis and Sergio Osmeña III had all been implicated in a series of assassination plots against President Marcos in 1972.


  1. Destabilization plan by Cecilio Arillo, December 19, 2016 (Business Mirror)

(This article is adapted from the source listed above. We are unable to grant permission for any kind of reproduction other than social media shares.)


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