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Surprise entries create chaos in race to succeed Philippines’ Duterte

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November 13, 2021

By Karen Lema

MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines’ presidential race got more crowded with the last-minute entry of Rodrigo Duterte’s long-time aide, in another twist to an election likely to be dominated by powerful family dynasties rather than reforms.

Duterte loyalist, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, registered to run for president after withdrawing his application to run for the No. 2 post, pitting himself against several rivals, including the son of late Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

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Go admitted he didn’t want to run against Duterte’s daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, who made a surprise move earlier on Saturday by filing her candidacy for the vice presidency, ending months-long speculation about her 2022 election plans.

But with the deadline to switch candidates for the May 2022 polls two days away, political analysts suspect there could be more surprises and even changes in alliances in what is becoming an unpredictable election.

Duterte’s communication secretary, Martin Andanar confirmed media reports that the 76-year old leader, who last month promised to retire from politics, would officially throw his hat in the vice presidential ring on Monday and run against his daughter.

“That is his plan, we don’t know if that is going to change,” Andanar told Reuters.

Duterte is barred by the Constitution from seeking a second six-year term, but nothing is stopping him from vying for another post.

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In the Philippines, the president and the largely ceremonial position of vice president are elected separately.

Ferdinand Marcos Jr, the only son of the late dictator who ruled the Philippines for almost two decades until his 1986 overthrow, has adopted Duterte-Carpio, eldest daughter of the autocratic and capricious Duterte, to be his running mate.

Duterte-Carpio, 43, who belongs to a political party controlled by former president Gloria Arroyo, another dominant force in Philippine politics, will release a statement soon, her spokesperson, Mayor Christina Garcia-Frasco said.

“The rivalries of the political families have really been dramatised in this case,” said political analyst Temario Rivera. “It looks like they are the only ones deciding on the country’s fate. It is infuriating because they are making a fool of the Filipino people.”

The Southeast Asian nation of 110 million people holds elections in May 2022 for positions from president down to governors, mayors and local officials. The next government faces the uphill task of reviving a pandemic-battered economy.

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Before announcing her vice presidential bid, Duterte-Carpio, in an opinion poll remained the most preferred candidate to succeed Duterte, and placing second was Marcos.

Political analyst Edmund Tayao said a possible team up of Marcos and Duterte-Caprio, two powerful political families in the Philippines, could be a “game changer.”

“Both of them are very popular. It is easy to assume they are the team to beat,” Tayao said.

But the prospect of a Marcos-Duterte-Carpio team taking the reins of government next year has stirred anger in the human rights community.

“What is in the offing are dire threats to democracy and freedoms in the country,” rights group Karapatan said.

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Marcos and Go are up against other presidential aspirants, including former boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, vice president Leni Robredo, Manila mayor Francisco Domagoso, and senator Panfilo Lacson.

Duterte’s former police chief turned senator Ronald dela Rosa quit the presidential race on Saturday to give way for Go.

Analysts said a loyalist successor to Duterte could insulate him from potential legal action at home or by the International Criminal Court, which is investigating thousands of killings since 2016 during his war on drugs.

His government has denied wrongdoing and has said it will not cooperate with the ICC.

(Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Lincoln Feast and Christina Fincher)

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Russian court remands mine director, inspectors in custody after deadly accident

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A court in Siberia on Saturday remanded five people in custody for two months to face charges related to a mining accident that killed more than 50 people this week.

Three managers of the Listvyazhnaya mine, including its director, were ordered to remain in custody until late January for flouting industrial safety standards, a spokesperson for the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The court also ordered two safety inspectors, who had issued a certificate for the mine this month but had not actually checked the facility, to remain in custody until late January.

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The accident, which regional authorities say was likely caused by a methane explosion, claimed the lives of 51 people, including five rescuers who were sent to bring out dozens of men stuck deep underground.

The health ministry said on Saturday that 60 people were being treated in hospital for injuries sustained at the mine, TASS news agency reported.

The accident at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow in the Kemerovo region, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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Russia spy chief says Ukraine invasion plan ‘malicious’ U.S. propaganda

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November 27, 2021

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia has no plans to invade Ukraine and suggestions to the contrary are malicious U.S. propaganda, Moscow’s foreign intelligence chief said on Saturday.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements near the border with Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch an attack.

Russia has repeatedly said it is free to move its troops on its own territory and that such movements should not be a cause for concern.

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“I need to reassure everyone. Nothing like this is going to happen,” Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, said in an interview broadcast on state television, referring to comments on Russia’s alleged invasion plans.

“Everything that is happening around this topic right now is of course malicious propaganda by the U.S. State Department.”

Naryshkin spoke a day after the State Department’s top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said all options were on the table in how to respond to Russia’s troop buildup near Ukraine’s border and that NATO would decide on the next move after consultations next week.

While U.S. officials have voiced concerns about a possible Russian attack on Ukraine, Moscow has accused Washington, Kyiv and NATO of provocative and irresponsible behaviour near its borders.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Spanish police march in Madrid to protest against ‘Gag Law’ reform

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November 27, 2021

By Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo

MADRID (Reuters) – Thousands of Spanish police officers marched through Madrid on Saturday to protest against a proposed reform of a security law which they say will hamper their ability to do their work.

Politicians from Spain’s three main conservative parties joined police officers in the protest against proposed changes to the 2015 Citizens Security Law, which critics say violates the right to protest and limits free expression.

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Dubbed the “Gag Law” by those who oppose it, the legislation allows authorities to fine media organisations for distributing unauthorised images of police, strictly limits demonstrations and imposes heavy fines for offenders.

Spain’s leftist government has proposed reforms including no longer classifying the taking of photographs or making of recordings of police at demonstrations as a serious offence.

Under the changes, police will also have to use less harmful materials at protests after a number of people were seriously injured by rubber bullets fired by officers.

The time that suspects who are arrested at protests can be held in custody will be cut from six hours to two and fines will be proportional to how much offenders earn.

“They should either leave the current law as it is or make it better for the police and for the citizens,” Civil Guard officer Vanessa Gonzalez told Reuters.

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Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, of the far-right Vox party, said: “There is strong opposition against (the reform) of this law. It is against our police and we will not let it happen.”

However, Isa Serra, spokeswoman for the far-left Unidas Podemos party, said at a rally in Cantabria in northern Spain that the law had done a “lot of damage to Spanish democracy”.

Organisers said 150,000 people took part in the Madrid demonstration but the government put the figure at 20,000.

(Reporting by Graham Keeley, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Trujillo; Editing by Alexander Smith)

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