Private Political Violence and Boss-Rule in the Philippines

Peter Kreuzer


Despite its rather strong and venerable democratic credentials the Philippines is still marred by political violence. Targeted killings and physical harassment by vigilantes, death squads, private armed groups, para-military militias, the police or members of the armed forces as well as violent competition for political jobs cost hundreds of lives every year. One central anchor point of this broad range of violent actors and forms are the locally embedded political bosses. (Defective) democracy provides an ideal frame for the continuing competition between various segments of the highly fragmented elite. The paper shows how the bosses succeeded in controlling most means of political violence employed and were thereby able to advance their interests to an extraordinary extent. Upholding private control over means of violence furthered their interests as a political class even though it weakened the state.