The Ampatuans, the Military and Elections in Maguindanao: The Ties That Bind

The said phone conversations supposedly took place during the counting period. Arroyo went on to win over Poe by more than a million votes.

In Maguindanao, Arroyo got 193,938 votes over Poe’s 59,892. Poe received not more than a handful of votes in Shariff Aguak, the provincial capital, and most other towns of Maguindanao. He even scored zero in Ampatuan and Datu Piang.

During the 2007 senatorial and local elections, the administration’s Team Unity obtained a 12-0 victory over the Genuine Opposition in Maguindanao, with the votes for Team Unity amounting to more than the number of registered voters in the province.

In both elections, there were more votes cast in Maguindanao than the total number of registered voters.

In 2006, Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 546, which allowed the country’s warlord clans, including the Ampatuans, to skirt the constitutional ban on private armed groups. While allowing local government units (LGUs) to deputize barangay tanods (village watchmen) as “force multipliers” in the counter-insurgency campaign, EO 546 has given local officials the leeway to have their private armies legalized into what are called “civilian volunteer organizations” (CVOs).

Andal Sr.’s private armed force consists of anywhere between 200 and 500 men, based on information from various sources. This includes two auxiliary units of the paramilitary Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) that are detailed to the provincial governor, as well as hundreds of armed civilians.

In a recent media statement, Bantay Partylist Rep. Jovito Palparan Jr., who was one of Arroyo’s most favored generals during his stint in the Army, admitted that the government had armed the Ampatuans in exchange for their help in fighting the MILF.

The Ampatuans’ rise to the peak of political power was in no small part due to their ties with the military. In a most ironic twist, the military proposed the extension of martial law in Maguindanao until the 2010 elections purportedly to teach the Ampatuans “how to run peaceful and credible elections.” (

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