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The Ampatuans were Arroyo’s anointed lieutenants in ARMM, their alliance built largely on largesse. But the cash bonanza that Maguindanao secured from Arroyo failed dismally to alleviate the misery of the poor. Its poverty numbers grew parallel to the surge in the wealth of the Ampatuans, a clan given to flaunting its wealth, weapons, and wheels. 

Until they were charged with the murder of 58 persons on Nov. 23, 2009, the Ampatuans lived in mansions, traveled with a retinue of armed escorts in a convoy of black SUVs, flew business class, and in the first days of their detention, enjoyed catered meals.

At least one in five victims of drug-related killings in Metro Manila in 2016 and 2017 were beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), our field and database research over the past two years show.