PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd has appointed Senior Solicitor and University of the Philippines (UP) professor Florin Hilbay as acting Solicitor General (SolGen).
Hilbay, 40, will replace Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, who was recently appointed as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
It was Hilbay who led the filing of graft charges against then-President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo and the impeachment complaint against then-Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez for allegedly favoring respondents in the botched Mega Pacific automation deal.
Malacanang spokesman Edwin Lacierda on Wednesday confirmed Hilbay’s appointment.
Hilbay topped the 1999 Bar examinations.
He was the vice president of Bantay Katarungan, a civil society group founded by former senator Jovito Salonga.
Records released by the Palace indicated that during the time of Arroyo, Hilbay, through Bantay Katarungan, filed criminal complaints at the Office of the Ombudsman against then-Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Benjamin Abalos for the botched MegaPacific poll automation contract.
The group also led the filing of string of charges against Arroyo. It also was the first to file an impeachment case against Gutierrez after the “anomalous dismissal” of the case against Abalos and the other accused in the automation scandal.
“As Senior State Solicitor, Professor Hilbay–along with then SolGen Jardeleza–orally argued and won the case for the RH [Reproductive Health] Law before the [SC]. On his own, he also orally argued and won for the OSG [Office of the Solicitor General] the case of Corpus v. People before the court en banc,” a statement issued by Malacanang said.
“He is the principal handling lawyer for the DAP [Disbursement Acceleration Program], PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund], EDCA [Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement] and the Bangsamoro cases, among other cases of significant public importance,” it added.
Hilbay teaches Constitutional Law and Philosophy of Law, with emphasis on issues relating to Church and State, post-colonial constitutionalism and the relationship between the information environment and legal consciousness. He has also taught Obligations and Contracts and Public Officers and Election Law. He is the editor-in-chief of the Philippine Law and Society Review.
His interest in public law is supplemented by experience in public institutions. He was law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza, an associate solicitor at the OSG (on secondment, as assistant to SolGen Simeon Marcelo) and a consultant to the Comelec.
Hilbay was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Boston College and a Master of Law from Yale Law School. He has also held fellowships at the Asian Law Institute at the National University of Singapore, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg and Silliman University.
Lawyer Harry Roque, a vocal critic of the DAP, welcomed Hilbay’s appointment.
In an interview with The Manila Times, Roque said the government now has good chances of winning its cases.
“[President Aquino] will finally win his case! [Hilbay is] young but brilliant,” the associate professor at the UP College of Law, added. What case he was referring to, it was not clear.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines president, Vicente Joyas, in a separate phone interview, said the new acting SolGen has no bad record.
“He is an insider. He can do the job,” the IBP chief added.