101 East
The Philippines' private armies
We look at how clans use private armies to keep a tight grip on political power.
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2010 15:39 GMT

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.

Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
UNHCR says hundreds of people trapped in Yaloke town risk death if they are not evacuated to safety urgently.
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Long-standing dispute over Christian use of the word 'Allah' raises concerns about a very un-Merry Christmas.
The threat posed by ISIL has prompted thousands of young Kurds to join the PKK.
Baja California - with its own grim history of disappeared people - finds a voice in the fight against violence.
Russian feminist rockers fight system holding 700,000 - the world's largest per capita prison population after the US.
Weeks of growing protests against Muslims continue in Dresden with 15,000 hitting the streets last Monday.