A government-appointed group began working Thursday to disband 132 militias used by politicians to intimidate rivals, after one allegedly killed 57 people in a southern Philippines massacre. Critics worry that only opposition figures' armies will be broken up.
A government-appointed special commission set out Thursday on an urgent mission: to supervise the disbandment of private armies long maintained by Philippine politicians in time for May elections, and to convince the public it is sincere in its efforts.
The militia was run by the Ampatuan political clan, who were at the time members of Ms. Arroyo's ruling coalition. The Ampatuans have since been expelled. The authorities have accused the family of committing the murders in November to prevent a rival politician from running for governor of the province against them. The principal accused, a mayor named Andal Ampatuan Jr., pleaded not guilty in court Tuesday to multiple charges of murder.
But critics worry that only private armies belonging to opposition politicians will be disbanded, especially since the governing party’ s candidate to replace Ms. Arroyo in May is trailing three opposition candidates in the opinion polls.