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For generations, Philippine politics have been dominated by powerful family dynasties using violence and fear to rule.

But after 57 civilians were killed in the election-related Maguindanao massacre in November 2009, the government has been forced to act.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the president of the Philippines, has launched a special commission to disband the country's 132 private armies.

But the commission has received widespread scepticism. Critics say that to tackle private armies, the whole structure of Philippine politics has to change. 

Meanwhile, around 10,000 men form private armies across the Philippines.

Some are more heavily armed than conventional guerilla armies, and have helped maintain a political system built on clan loyalties and patronage.

With national political leaders relying on them for support and votes, local politicians have operated with impunity, dealing with rivals through the barrel of a gun rather than an election box.

In this edition of 101 East, we look at how clans use private armies to keep a tight grip on political power in the Philippines.

This 101 East episode airs from Thursday, March 25, 2010 at the following times GMT: Thursday: 1230; Friday: 0300; Saturday: 0530, 1730; Sunday: 0330, 1130; Monday: 1630; Tuesday: 1430; Wednesday: 0830, 1930; Thursday: 0630.

Source: Al Jazeera