Congressman: Trillanes arrest won't help ease inflation

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This story was updated to include a statement from Senator Antonio Trillanes.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 7) — House Economic Affairs Vice Chairman Joey Salceda would rather prioritize inflation concerns than the impending arrest of government critic Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

"I think the national attention has the capacity to focus on both, but definitely kung papipiliin mo ako — uunahin ko ang inflation," Salceda told CNN Philippines' The Source on Friday.

[Translation: If you made me choose — I would prioritize inflation.]

"[The arrest] doesn't help in clarifying the issues and focusing the national attention on addressing this more primordial issue of food security and the lives of ordinary people," he added.

President Rodrigo Duterte released a proclamation voiding the amnesty granted to Trillanes for his involvement in military coup attempts under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Administration critics have pointed out the arrest comes conveniently as inflation hit a nine-year high and the peso hits a near 13-year low. This comes on top of a rice crisis following a shortage in Zamboanga City and a weevil infestation that stalled the delivery of 300,000 sacks of imports.

Trillanes on Friday said the President could not use him as a diversion from the material problem of inaccessible goods.

"Hindi ako pwede maging diversion, kasi araw-araw bumibili sila, pumupunta sa palengke at namimili ng ordinaryong bilihin. Iyan ang humaharap sa kanila," said Trillanes. "Kaya kahit anong patawa ni Duterte sa speech niya, hindi niya ito malulusutan."

[Translation: He cannot make me a diversion, because (people) buy go to the market and buy ordinary goods every day. They face the problem... So even if Duterte jokes about in his speeches, he can't get past this.]

The opposition lawmaker also questioned the timing of Duterte's trip to Israel and Jordan, during which time both the news of Trillanes' arrest and the high inflation rate broke. He also said the President even denied there was a rice problem.

"Siya ang dapat na nakatutok sa problema ng bayan," said Trillanes. "May narining na ba kayong solusyon galing kay Duterte? Wala."

[Translation: He's supposed to be concentrate on the nation's problems. Have you heard of a solution from Duterte? No.]

The economic downturn prompted some lawmakers — most prominently House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez — to call on Duterte's economic managers to step down. Malacanang has since said it would keep its Trade, Budget, Finance, and Socio-economic Planning secretaries.

Salceda disagrees with his colleague, saying the economic chiefs need not resign. He expects inflation to go down within the year — although he says prices could stay the same.

The congressman thinks the government is better off addressing food issues to curb inflation, including lifting tariffs on fish, meat, corn, and vegetables.

Salceda was appointed Special Focal Person for Counter-Inflation Measures by Arroyo, who is now House Speaker. The Albay representative was previously an economic manager during her presidency.