Maguindanao Massacre Highlights Unholy Alliances in Philippine Politics

Manila Bulletin, November 30, 2009 | Go to article overview

Maguindanao Massacre Highlights Unholy Alliances in Philippine Politics


MANILA, November 29, 2009 (AFP) - President Gloria Arroyo moved swiftly to cut ties with a powerful Muslim clan whose son is blamed for massacring 57 people but experts say Philippine politics is infested with unholy alliances.Political analysts describe the Southeast Asian nation of more than 7,000 islands as extremely corrupt where the central government is forced to team up with rogue politicians to win votes and have them control outlying areas.Arroyo's alliance with the family of Andal Ampatuan Sr., whose son and namesake has been charged with murder over the November 23 killings, is one of the most dramatic examples.At least nine Ampatuans are being investigated for their potential complicity in the massacre, including the father who has been the governor of Maguindanao province and an Arroyo ally for most of this decade.The president's Lakas Kampi CMD coalition quickly expelled the Ampatuans from the party following the murders that allegedly took place to eliminate a rival's bid for governor.But the Philippines' human rights commissioner, Lilia de Lima, pointed out the Ampatuans already had a well-known reputation as "warlords"."(The clan) did not amass its cache of arms and assemble massive private armies overnight," de Lima said in a statement."These can only be done while national authorities impliedly condone the proliferation of arms among the political elite in the distant regions of the country."Ampatuan's militia was tolerated for years because it helped the military hold at bay Muslim separatists who would have otherwise caused chaos there, said University of the Philippines political science professor Alex Magno."The occasional abuses committed by the warlords, until this week, were a small price to pay for the strategic role of keeping the Maguindanao area and those to the south free of insurgency," Magno told AFP.The Muslim insurgency has claimed more than 150,000 lives since the 1970s, according to the military, so having allies in the south who can mitigate the threat is vital.Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno conceded that Arroyo had to make a delicate balancing act as she dismantled the clan's armed militia, citing the threat of Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrilla group. …

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