Hilbay: This feels like Rogue One | Inquirer Opinion

Hilbay: This feels like Rogue One

/ 11:26 AM March 14, 2017

This feels like Rogue One, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay told me. Try not to get vaporized at the end, I suggested.

Hilbay argues detained Sen. Leila de Lima’s Supreme Court (SC) case at 2 PM today.


The Star Wars analogy is apt for all the wrong reasons.

Hilbay will lead a ragtag army of legal rebels. The incomprehensible pleading they filed is a veritable Millennium Falcon. Potentially legendary, but looking like it was cobbled together from junk parts.


Indeed, de Lima’s legal defense was not made clear. News reports emphasized “hierarchy of courts” as the key issue in today’s hearing. This is a fancy term about which court to challenge the charges in, a procedural detail that not even I care to hear about in a SC case about jailing a senator.

The Empire in Hilbay’s script is not off to the best start, either. Law students on Facebook made fun of the cover page—yes, the cover!—of the government’s pleading, with its big bold title, “De Lima’s Narco-Politics Case.” Previously, the Inquirer dedicated a whole editorial to making fun of the English of the first page of the prosecutors’ resolution against de Lima (though I wished people discussed the body, too).

Solicitor General Jose Calida should be confident in how Darth Vader had by far the best scene in the movie, but he might force choke whoever put Microsoft Word Art in that cover page.

For those who read past the cover, Calida will argue that de Lima may be charged with drug trafficking purely by alleging that she agreed to sell drugs with others. Page 62 of his pleading argues that prosecutors need not need establish what type and amount of drugs de Lima allegedly sold.

Calida’s key procedural argument is that charges against de Lima were properly filed in a regional trial court (RTC). De Lima was Secretary of Justice when she allegedly conspired to sell drugs and charges against senior government officials’ abuse of powers are typically filed in the Sandiganbayan.

Calida, however, stresses that under the Dangerous Drugs Act, drug trafficking charges are filed in a RTC. Further, page 49 of his pleading argues that the charges have nothing to do with de Lima’s official powers as former Secretary of Justice.

If Hilbay wants to be Luke Skywalker and pushes Calida as Darth Vader, perhaps the third Solicitor General in the drama can be Yoda. Now Justice Francis Jardeleza is the bench’s intellectual heavyweight who enjoys philosophical arguments all the way to citations of the Harvard Law Review during hearings.


The far less subtle Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio can play the Death Star, ready to blow up planets and silly arguments.

Lightsabers clash at 2 PM. Follow @SCPh_PIO on Twitter for livestreams and livetweets.

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React: [email protected], Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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TAGS: court case, Florin Hilbay, Illegal drugs, Jose Calida, Leila de Lima, Supreme Court
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