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President Duterte threatens to jail opponents

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Source: Reuters- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened opponents with prison if they try to impeach him, the latest in what a top U.N. official and an Asian lawmakers’ group this week called a pattern of persecution and assaults on free speech.

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Duterte vented his anger late on Thursday amid intense media scrutiny and accusations that he is siding with China over a June 9 sinking of a Filipino fishing boat by a Chinese vessel, which happened inside Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The maverick leader has echoed Beijing’s line that it was an accident, not an intentional ramming, and shrugged off the presence of Chinese fishermen inside the Philippine EEZ, saying he would allow it out of friendship.

Some high-profile critics, among them a top judge and a former foreign minister, have called that a breach of the constitution, or worthy of his impeachment.

“Me? Will be impeached? I will jail them all,” Duterte told reporters. “Try to do it and I will do it. Son of a bitch.”

He added: “I am challenging you to do it. You really want to force my hand into it? Okay. You sons of bitches, do it. Yes. File it.”

A report on Tuesday by the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights chided the Duterte administration for what it said were threats and aggressive rhetoric and trumped-up criminal charges against opponents that amounted to “deliberate effort to muzzle critics and weaken checks and balances.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday said there was a “very real risk of violence” for Filipinos who speak out, noting threats were publicly made by state officials.

While Duterte’s popularity and mandate have been bolstered by a recent midterm election, the sinking incident has put the domestic spotlight on cracks that are appearing in his much-trumpeted foreign policy of non-confrontation with China in return for economic incentives.

Some analysts say China’s offers of high-interest infrastructure loans and promises of massive investments have won Duterte’s acquiescence, but with much of that yet to materialize and China further militarizing its artificial islands and strengthening its fishing militia, Duterte risks looking like he is being duped.

Asked on Friday about threats to jail opponents, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte was merely upset that people could not see he had the country’s interests at heart.

“He cannot understand why people are against his policy,” Panelo told reporters.


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24 Hours Across Africa

Israel election: Netanyahu, Gantz battle too close

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Israel’s election was too close to call on Wednesday, with a partial vote tally showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tied with his main rival, former military chief Benny Gantz.

An official result was still hours, perhaps days off. But with more than 63 percent of votes counted, theis  Netanyahu-led right-wing bloc was, as expected, more or less even with Gantz’s center-left.

With no single-party majority in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, there will likely be weeks of coalition talks before a new government is formed.

The ballot’s wildcard, former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, emerged as a likely kingmaker as head of the secular-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.

Lieberman has been pushing for a unity government comprised of the biggest parties. He declined to back Netanyahu’s bid to form a narrow right-wing and religious coalition after an April election, bringing about Tuesday’s unprecedented repeat vote.

Addressing Likud party faithful, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier, sipped water frequently and spoke hoarsely. He made no claim of victory or concession of defeat, saying he would await final results.

His dead-of-night appearance was a far cry from his triumphant – and in the end premature – declaration five months ago that he had won a close election.

Gantz was more upbeat, telling a rally of his Blue and White party that it appeared “we fulfilled our mission”, and he pledged to work toward forming of a unity government.

Reuters

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24 Hours Across Africa

Inflation rate falls to 1.7%

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 The office for National statistics says the consumer price index is 1.7%-down from 2.1% – in August

Head of inflation at ONS Mike Hardie said: “The inflation rate has fallen noticeably into August, to its lowest since late 2016. This was mainly driven by a decrease in computer game prices, plus clothing prices rising by less than year after the end of the summer sales.

“Annual growth in house prices slowed to its lowest rate since September 2012, with four of the nine English regions now seeing prices falling over the year”.

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