Ampatuan Militia (Philippines)

Country: Philippines
Details of Formation: The Ampatuans are a highly influential family clan over decades in Maguindanao. On 14 May 2001, the clan leader Andal Ampatuan, Sr. is elected governor and over the years, many other political offices are taken by Ampatuans. During the Arroyo administration the Ampatuans enjoyed unwavering support. (Human Rights Watch 2010)
Details of Termination: On November 23, the Ampatuan Militia committed a massacre by killing 58 people of a political opposed group and journalists. In the aftermath, the government starts to hunt down suspected members under the state of emergency and martial law (Wikipedia Maguidanao Massacre). The Ampatuan clan subsequently lost the governor election and was succeeded by their rival Toto Mangudadatu (UCPD). When President Aquino III took power in 2010 he vowed to abolish private armies. However, crimes linked to the Ampatuan militia continue to occur. It is considered difficult to assess the impact of the government crackdown on the militia as only a fraction of the Ampatuan clan has been captured and the underlying structures permitting the militia’s existence have not been addressed (Human Rights Watch 2010). UCDP does not report any activity after 2009.
Purpose: During their time as regional governors, the Ampatuans used their militia to eliminate threats to the family’s rule. President Arroyo supported them because she relied on the family for crucial votes and for support in the fight against insurgents. The Ampatuans were successful in supporting Arroyo by manipulating the 2004 and 2007 elections in favour of her administration. Considering their fight against insurgents, it is reported that they rather drove people to seek refuge in the rebel groups to escape the Ampatuan Militia’s arbitrary violence. (Human Rights Watch 2010)
Organisation: The use of private armies by local politicians was legalized by Executive Order 546 in 2006 (Amnesty International 2009). Senior members of the Ampatuan clan, especially Andal Ampatuan, Sr. and Andal Ampatuan, Jr were at the top of the command structure, followed by other local politicians and family members. The national police, the military and the Department of Justice did not supervise the Ampatuan militia. Instead the CAFGU, CVO, police and the Armed Forces reported to the Ampatuans and were used by them for private purposes. The police received payments from the Ampatuans. There was a close and friendly link between the military and the Ampatuans, and the Ampatuans were said to have a hold on the military. The military was one of the sources of Ampatuan weapons (Human Rights Watch 2010).
Weapons and Training: The Ampatuans provided their militia with modern military weaponry. After the Maguindanao massacre, investigators recovered anti-tank weapons, mortars, machine guns, automatic pistols, sniper and assault rifles (Human Rights Watch 2010). They confiscated more than 330,000 rounds of 5.56×45mm NATO ammunition, a Humvee and an improvised armored vehicle (Wikipedia Maguidanao Massacre). Rifles were used during the massacre included M60 machine guns, M16 assault rifles, M14 rifles, M203 rifle grenade launchers, AK-47 assault rifles, a hand-held rocket launcher, and K3 machine guns. Estimates suggest the Ampatuans then owned up to 5,000 military weapons. Most weapons were provided by the military and police. The only militia members receiving training were CAFGU members who per law are entitled to training by the Armed Forces. (Human Rights Watch 2010)
Size: The Ampatuan Militia had between 2,000 and 5,000 armed men, with up to 5,000 at the time of the Maguindanao massacre in 2009 (Human Rights Watch 2010). Amnesty reports that the Ampatuans controlled 3,000 to 4,000 armed men (Amnesty International 2009). UCDP estimates 2400 men. Two news sources of 2009 mention that the militia had 200 men, another one mentions 4,000.
Reason for Membership: Members were actively recruited by senior members of the Ampatuan family and were paid according to their classification (CVO/CAFGU/Police Auxiliary Units) and geographical region. Salaries vary widely between individual members and sometimes remuneration is not in cash but in form of rice provision. In some cases the Ampatuans pressured men to join their militia; those resisting joining would be treated like an enemy. One recruit reports that he joined because he lacked opportunities and his family was poor. Ampatuans also recruited from among children, particularly relatives. (Human Rights Watch 2010)
Treatment of Civilians: The Ampatuan Militia regularly abused civilians in over 50 incidences of killings, torture, sexual assault, abductions and forced disappearances. They targeted relatives of opposition politicians, landowners resisting their land demands, witnesses of Ampatuan crimes and children. Senior Ampatuan members raped women and kept some as “wives”. Although there were reports of widespread abuses, the national government kept supporting the Ampatuan Militia and failed to act, giving the Ampatuan militia members complete impunity (Human Rights Watch 2010). When the Ampatuan commited the Maguidanao Massacre in November 2009, killing 58, (including 32 journalists), the national government reacted against the Ampatuan and moved to demobilize and prosecute them (Wikipedia Maguidanao Massacre).
Other Information: The Ampatuan clan has been allied to successive national governments against Moro separatists. Over time they consolidated power and acquired control over the political, security and commercial life of Maguindanao. The Ampatuan militia included CVO, CAFGU and Police Auxiliary Units, but their official designation is said to mean little when they are under Ampatuan command. (Human Rights Watch 2010)
References: Amnesty International. 2009. “Philippines must limit Martial Law and disband paramilitaries.”

Human Rights Watch. 2010. “’They Own the People’. The Ampatuans, State-Backed Militias, and Killings in the Southern Philippines.“ ISBN: 1-56432-710-8.

Uppsala Conflict Data Program. “Ampatuan militia.”

Wikipedia. “Maguidanao Massacre”.

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD