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This article challenges the pervasive notion of rebel groups in the southern Philippines as non-state actors opposing the penetration of the state. Instead, through a historically informed analysis of local politics in two Mindanao provinces with a presence of Muslim and communist armed insurgents, respectively (North Cotabato and Compostela Valley), it will be demonstrated that particularly since the end of the Marcos martial law regime and subsequent democratisation and decentralisation efforts, local state and rebel structures have become increasingly intertwined. On the one hand, this observation can be explained with reference to particular historical-institutional trajectories, which led to the establishment of the local state as a vital instrument for accumulation and for political legitimation. On the other hand, the current situation can only be fully understood when considering the wider set of social structures that cut across the state-rebel divide, prime amongst which those defined by kinship.