477 firearms: the vast arsenal of the Duterte family

According to official documents consulted by the website Rappler, the former Philippine president and his family own a huge amount of firearms: 358 - including an assault rifle - are personally registered in the name of Rodrigo Duterte. Who in the last days of his term also passed a law extending the validity of the gun licence to 10 years

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) - There are almost 500 - precisely, according to the Rappler investigation, 477 - firearms owned by just four members of the family of Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines until 30 June 2022, and the first Mindanaoian to hold this position.

The arsenal comprises mainly of pistols and about a hundred rifles. Most of these weapons are registered to Rodrigo, 358, while his son, the current mayor of the city of Davao, Sebastian Duterte, has 66 weapons. His son-in-law Manases Carpio is 30 and his daughter Sara, Carpio's wife and vice-president of the country and minister of education, is 23. All for an economic value of 14 million pounds.

The journalistic investigation was able to verify these numbers thanks to documents from the Philippine National Police Firearms and Explosives Bureau (PNP-FEO). It is no coincidence that at the end of his mandate the former president passed a law that extended the validity of carrying firearms to 10 years, when previously it stopped at four.

Duterte therefore benefited from his own law because the license of his 358 firearms was renewed immediately and will remain valid for the following 10 years.

The new law he passed, RA-11766, also made it easier to obtain a permit to carry guns outside of residence. Part of the changes made have also accelerated and facilitated the issuing of permits with the introduction of two new "clauses": that is, that an elected official - whether in office or former - like him - can obtain a weapons licence. The same goes for law enforcement personnel, both active and retired. His children and relatives also benefited from this law.

The Philippines has a long-standing problem with gun violence and there are numerous private armies linked to influential clans and families in the country. Political attempts to abolish them have failed due to watered-down legislation, such as not placing a cap on the number of guns an individual can own.

The current code in fact says that an individual who owns at least 15 weapons is identified as a "weapons collector" and can obtain a "type 5 licence", provided that he passes pharmacological and psychological tests, as well as an inspection of the place where they are guarded. 

However, the norm does not impose a limit. For comparison: one of the most passionate collectors in the country, the former commissioner Kim Henares, reaches "only" 40. Yet he too believes it is right that the law does not impose a ceiling, but "regulators must be strict on a psychological level test.

This because there is no difference if a person has 1 or 10 weapons, if he is unstable, it's the same thing." Also notable in the inventory of Duterte's collection is an FN Herstal P90, a rifle classified as a submachine gun by the manufacturer, but which in the former president's records is listed as a "light weapon".

These numbers appear disturbing also in light of the words said by Duterte while the International Criminal Court (ICC) is still investigating the six years of his bloody "war on drugs" punctuated by thousands of killings and the years of his mandate as mayor of Davao for the murders committed by the alleged 'death squad': “If they come to get me, if they arrest me here, there will be a shootout, and I will finish them all off,” Duterte said.

Finally, the shadows on the weapons in the hands of the former president also come from the trial against Duterte's friend and spiritual advisor, the controversial preacher Apollo Quiboloy, leader of the religious group Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC), accused of various crimes, murders and of sexual violence: a witness saw Rodrigo and Sara Duterte leaving the preacher's compound with bags full of weapons. In the case, the former president denied that Quiboloy gave him weapons, saying in Davao City on February 27: "Accepting weapons from Quiboloy? That's really stupid. Why would Pastor Quiboloy give me a gun"?