Duterte administration

The Duterte dynasty: Powered by guns

Jairo Bolledo, Lian Buan, Jodesz Gavilan

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The Duterte dynasty: Powered by guns
(2nd UPDATE) Former president Rodrigo Duterte and his family have a combined total of 654 firearms in their possession, according to new information obtained by Rappler
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The Duterte dynasty: Powered by guns

(2nd UPDATE) Former President Rodrigo Duterte and his family have a combined total of 654 firearms in their possession, according to new information obtained by Rappler

BY Lian Buan, Jairo Bolledo, Jodesz Gavilan
All illustrations by Alejandro Edoria

There are already 654 guns in the combined vault of only five members of the powerful and ruling Duterte clan, made up of mostly the handy and easy-to-use pistols and a hundred rifles, documents obtained by Rappler show. (Editor’s Note: In an earlier version of this story, we counted 477, to include only four members of the Duterte family. New information gathered allowed us to update our count.)

The patriarch, former president Rodrigo Duterte, has the most number of firearms in his collection, or 363 assorted weapons, which is five more than we earlier reported which was at the time based on records from October 2023. After our reporting, we obtained the most recent records.

His eldest, Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte has about half the size of his father’s vault, or 172 newly-licensed firearms. His youngest son, Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte has 61, his son-in-law Manases Carpio has 30, and his daughter, Carpio’s wife, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte, has 28. We were unable to verify if other members of the family, including the former president’s partner and children in-law, have any firearms.

These documents are in the records of the Philippine National Police Firearms and Explosives Office (PNP-FEO), and were verified to be authentic by Rappler. These documents mean that the firearms in these records were licensed.

Former president Duterte passed a law on May 6, 2022 that extended the validity of a firearm to 10 years, when before a license was valid for only four years before it had to be renewed again. The former president benefitted from his own law because his 358 firearms were renewed afterwards, just weeks before he stepped down as president, and obtained 10-year licenses.

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Duterte got licenses for over 300 guns 2 weeks before his term ended

Duterte got licenses for over 300 guns 2 weeks before his term ended

The new law he passed, RA 11766, also made it easier for him to obtain a permit to carry outside residence. Part of the amendments made to the old version, RA 10591, listed professions such as lawyers, businessmen, journalists, accountants, as having an assumed threat to their safety and thereby giving them an easier time applying for a permit. In the new law, Duterte added two: an elected official, both former and current such as himself, and retired and active law enforcement personnel.

His children also benefitted from this law because Sara and Sebastian are elected officials too: Sara was Davao City mayor before the 2022 elections, and Sebastian was Davao City vice mayor at the time.

In Sebastian’s vault of 66, there are 24 firearms with 10-year licenses or until 2033 or 2034. Paolo also has 24 firearms with 10-year licenses, because most of the firearms in his vault of 144 are expiring either this year, 2025, or 2026 – which means he can renew them by then and get a fresh 10-year license if he wishes. Sara has six firearms with 10-year licenses, and husband Manases has seven firearms with 10-year licenses expiring in the same period.

The most expensive guns in the vault, according to publicly available market pricing, are the pistols. Paolo’s Wilson Combat EDC X9S is worth P342,500, and Sebastian’s Les Baer 572 Hemi pistol is worth P300,000. The Kriss Vector SDP Gen II, one of which Rodrigo and Sebastian each own, is priced at P261,000.

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Why so many?

The Philippines has an enduring problem of gun violence, notoriously committed by the private armies of powerful clans. Past attempts at cracking down, and abolishing the private armies have failed because of watered down legislations, such as not putting a ceiling on the number of guns an individual can own. 

The law says an individual possessing at least 15 guns is already a gun collector, and can obtain a Type 5 license, provided she or he passes the required drug and psychological tests, plus a vault inspection.

Although the law does not impose a limit on the number of guns per person, the common gun collector follows regulations as guidance and usually keeps his or her collection to around 15, according to our industry sources. The more avid shooter can have more – for example, former tax commissioner and known gun enthusiast Kim Henares has 40.

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Henares believes the law is right not to impose a limit on the number of guns one person can possess, but the former Cabinet member – and the late former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s shooting buddy – said the regulators must be strict in the psychological test. Under FEO guidelines, the neuro-psychiatric examination and the drug test should be done by the PNP Health Service and the crime laboratory group, respectively.

“What you should regulate is making sure who holds those guns, right? Even if you allow one person to only have one gun, if he’s unstable, it’s the same thing,” said Henares in a mix of English and Filipino.

The Dutertes did not respond to Rappler’s requests for an interview or statement for this story. Separate requests were sent to the offices of Sara, Paolo, Sebastian, and Manases Carpio. We will update this story once they respond.

Rodrigo and Sara indirectly reacted to Rappler’s stories in separate statements. On March 7, the Vice President posted a video statement, saying the reporting about her guns is part of an “organized demolition job.” She said these allegations aim to tarnish her integrity and create an image that she is a “killer, corrupt, abusive, and a warlord.” 

Makikita natin ito sa pag-atake sa confidential funds, pagpapalaganap ng video sa Commonwealth traffic, paggawa ng issue sa pagtatag ng security para sa Opisina ng Bise Presidente, paglabas ng testigo na umano’y ako ay kaparte ng Davao Death Squad, sa malisyosong ulat tungkol sa aking mga baril, at ang pambabastos sa relasyon namin ng aking asawa,” the Vice President said. 

(We can see this through the attack against confidential funds, the viral Commonwealth traffic video, making an issue of the creation of a security unit for the Office of the Vice President, a witness claiming that I am part of the Davao Death Squad, through a malicious report about my guns, and the disrespect for my relationship with my husband.)

On January 30 during a press conference in Davao City, Duterte took a swipe at Rappler’s earlier reporting on his gun collection and said that many of his guns were gifts when he was president, and that all of them are licensed anyway. According to Duterte, he knew that there were inquiries about his gun collection because a cop had tipped him off.  

“Kinakalkal ‘yung firearms namin kung magkano, naririnig ko eh, tumawag ‘yung FEO…Lahat ng baril ko, pati maliit na baril, lisensiyado ‘yan. Kasi mahilig ako sa baril, pina-rehistro ko lahat sa Crame. Eh sila nagtanung-tanong, marami kang baril, eh putang-ina tanong mo sa Crame, regalo ‘yan,” said Duterte.

(They were looking into our firearms, how much they were, I heard because someone from the FEO called me…. All of my guns, even my small guns, are licensed. I am into guns, so I registered them all in Crame. But they were asking – you have so many guns, son of a bitch ask Crame, they are gifts.)

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Why do we have Class-A light weapons?

The PNP-FEO told Rappler in December 2023 that the rules are uniform for everyone and that a former president such as Duterte does not enjoy special privileges. 

However, records bear out that each member of the Duterte clan owns Class-A light weapons, which under RA 10591 can be bought, owned, and licensed only by law enforcement personnel.

Class-A light weapons, under the law, include self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, submachine guns, assault rifles, and light machine guns not exceeding caliber 7.62 mm which have a fully automatic mode. Their FEO records explicitly say that Rodrigo Duterre has 38 Class-A light weapons, Paolo Duterte has 24, Sara Duterte has 3, Sebastian Duterte has 1, and Manases Carpio has 1. 

How are they able to license Class-A light weapons, which should have been exclusive to the military, police, and other law enforcement agencies?

It could be because the law’s exception clause applied to them. Because RA 10591 was passed only in 2013, non-law enforcement individuals (like the Dutertes) who possessed Class-A light weapons before 2013 were allowed to continue ownership of such firearms and were only required to renew their licenses. We sought clarification from the FEO on February 20 and followed up on February 28, and again on March 5, but have not yet received a response as of March 11. We will update this story once we do.

We also asked on March 8 whether the PNP will retroactively apply its recently amended internal rules to include more types of firearms in the small arms group, but we got no clear response. 

Scroll for the different kinds of guns in the Duterte weaponry

Based on estimates from market retail prices, the Duterte family’s weaponry is worth a total of P24 million. Former president Duterte’s collection is worth around P5.5 million, but his sons’ vaults, although much smaller collections, have more expensive firearms. 

Paolo’s collection of 172 is worth P10.2 million – more expensive than his father’s P5.5 million – based on newer documents we obtained. Based on last year’s documents, Sebastian’s collection is worth P5.4 million, Manases Carpio’s collection is worth around P2 million, and Vice President Sara Duterte’s collection is worth around P1.04 million.

Duterte and his guns

When speculations spread that an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) was forthcoming, the former president said he would resist arrest and he threatened violence.

Kapag puntahan nila ako, arestuhin nila ako dito, magkabarilan talaga ‘yan at uubusin ko ang mga putanginang ‘yan (If they come for me, if they arrest me here, there will be a shootout, I will finish all those sons of bitches),” said Duterte.

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The ICC is investigating the six years of Duterte’s bloody drug war, and six years of his term as mayor and vice mayor of Davao City for the killings made by the alleged Davao Death Squad.

While the Philippine government still maintains that The Hague has lost jurisdiction over the Philippine case after Duterte withdrew membership from the Court, Prosecutor Karim Khan has successfully appealed to the ICC chamber to let him continue his investigation. The probe has reached a stage where Khan can request for summons or a warrant.

Duterte has also started pushing for a rehashed idea of a Mindanao secession, which he mentioned in a nasty public word war with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in January. Opposition leader and former senator Antonio Trillanes IV, Duterte’s staunch enemy, said the PNP must cancel his gun licenses if he is threatening to secede. 

“Ito ay nag-incite to sedition/secession na. Malamang na gagamitin pa ang mga baril na ‘yan laban sa gobyerno (He is already inciting to sedition/secession. It’s possible he will use those firearms against the government),” Trillanes said.

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A witness against Duterte’s friend and spiritual adviser, the controversial doomsday preacher Apollo Quiboloy, said he had once witnessed Duterte and Vice President Sara Duterte leave the preacher’s compound with bags of guns. The witness said this during a Senate investigation into the violations of Quiboloy and his religious group Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) which had been accused of sexual assault.

“Minsan po pumupunta doon si former president Rodrigo Duterte at former Davao mayor Sara Duterte. ‘Pag umalis na po sila sa Glory Mountain, dala na po nila ang mga bag na siya pong mga bag na nilalagyan po ng mga baril,” said the witness during a Senate hearing on February 19. (Sometimes former president Rodrigo Duterte and former Davao mayor Sara Duterte would visit. When they leave the Glory Mountain, they would carry with them bags of guns.)

Sara Duterte responded to this accusation by imputing political motivations. “Sa kasaysayan ng Pilipinas, naging kagawian na ang pag-atake at pagbato ng sari-saring isyu laban sa Bise Presidente. Marahil, sapagkat ang Bise Presidente ang tumatayong pangunahing hadlang sa mga nangangarap maging pangulo,” she said on February 21.

(In the history of the Philippines, it’s been a tradition to attack and throw issues against the vice president. Perhaps, because the Vice President is the primary obstacle to those who aspire to be president.) 

Former president Duterte denied that Quiboloy gave him guns, telling journalists in Davao City on February 27 that: “Kami magtanggap ng baril kay Quiboloy? It is a very stupid proposition. Bakit naman si Pastor Quiboloy magbigay sa akin ng baril? Saan siya kukuha?” (We will get guns from Quiboloy? It is a very stupid proposition. Why would Pastor Quiboloy give me guns, where will he get them?)

INSPECTION. In 1997, then-mayor Rodrigo Duterte checks out an assault rifle after inspecting a crime scene in Davao city. Renato Lumawag/Reuters

SHOOTING RANGE. In the late 1980s, then-mayor Rodrigo Duterte inspects an assault rifle at a shooting range in Davao City. Renato Lumawag/Reuters

UZI. Former mayor Rodrigo Duterte poses with his Uzi submachine gun in the mid-1990s in the mountainous village of Carmen in the Baguio District of Davao City. Reuters

ANTI-TERRORISM. On June 28, 2018, then-president Rodrigo Duterte is seen with then-Chinese envoy Zhao Jianhua at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga. Rappler

TURNOVER. Former president Rodrigo Duterte hands over the marksman rifle from then-outgoing PNP director general Ronald dela Rosa to then-newly-installed PNP director general Oscar Albayalde during the PNP change of command ceremony on April 19, 2018. Malacañang photo

FROM CHINA. On June 28, 2018, then-president Rodrigo Duterte at the Clark Air Base in Pampanga, during the turnover by China to the Philippine government of rifles and ammunition to help combat terrorism. Rappler

– with a report from Ferdinand Zuasola/Rappler.com

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  1. ET

    Accordingly: “The PNP-FEO told Rappler that the rules are uniform for everyone and that a former president such as Duterte does not enjoy special privileges.” Of course, the PNP-FEO can say this because the new law, RA 11766, was passed by Former President Digong Duterte to have himself as the first beneficiary. Who needs so many firearms? Are they getting them for their private armies? That new law (RA 11766) should be amended based on social justice. But who would want to amend it? It is a law that benefits only a few Filipinos yet would remain unchanged because most of our politicians and businesspersons are its primary beneficiaries – so few yet so powerful.

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.
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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.
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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.