2 solicitors general to clash at SC orals on De Lima case

Lian Buan
2 solicitors general to clash at SC orals on De Lima case
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay joins De Lima's team of lawyers against the government team led by SolGen Jose Calida

MANILA, Philippines – Two solicitor generals – the current one and his immediate predecessor – will go against each other on Tuesday, March 14, when the Supreme Court (SC) hears oral arguments on Senator Leila de Lima’s motions, seeking to nullify the drug cases against her and the arrest order by a Muntinlupa court.

Solicitor General Jose Calida, a vocal critic of De Lima, will argue on behalf of the public respondents, while his predecessor, Florin Hilbay, will argue for the detained senator.

De Lima’s chief media officer Ferdie Maglalang confirmed to Rappler that Hilbay would be their camp’s lead oralist before the SC. Maglalang could not offer more details whether Hilbay volunteered or was tapped by De Lima.

Hilbay himself tweeted on Monday that he will argue for De Lima.


On the bench is another former solicitor general, Justice Francis Jardeleza, an appointee of former President Benigno Aquino III.

Hilbay and Jardeleza worked on the West Philippine Sea case before the arbitral tribunal when they were still both with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).

President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointees, justices Samuel Martires and Noel Tijam, join the SC in time to be on the lineup to hear De Lima’s petitions.

Calida’s comment

De Lima filed petitions for certoriari and prohibition, seeking the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order on the proceedings and a status quo ante order on the senator’s arrest warrant.

A status quo ante order would have the effect of a recall of warrant, which would give De Lima temporary freedom.

The respondents in De Lima’s petitions are Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 204 Judge Juanita Guerrero for issuing the arrest warrant, and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief General Ronald Dela Rosa for enforcing the warrant.

Calida filed his comment ahead of the oral arguments, saying De Lima should not be granted her petitions, on the basis of violating the hierarchy of courts and forum shopping, among others.

In his 97-page comment submitted to the SC, Calida said De Lima could not submit her petition directly to the SC without “exceptional and compelling circumstances.”

“De Lima is facing an ordinary case, if not for the fact that she is an incumbent Senator. Clearly, the issues she has presented are common legal issues that may be passed upon by the Court of Appeals and the RTC,” Calida wrote in his comment.

Calida also said De Lima is guilty of forum shopping because the issues she raised in her petitions to the SC are the same issues she presented in her pending motion to quash before the Muntinlupa RTC.

Calida also sided with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in saying that the agency had the power to investigate De Lima and consequently file the charges against her.

Calida cited provisions in the Dangerous Drugs Act that say it’s the DOJ and the criminal circuit courts, later turned into the regional trial courts, which shall have the jurisdiction to exclusively handle cases involving violations of the law.

De Lima is facing 3 counts of violation of Section 5 of the drugs law, which penalizes the “sale, trading, administration, dispensation, delivery, distribution and transportation of illegal drugs.” Rappler.com


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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.