Powerhouse team to argue for De Lima in SC orals

Lian Buan

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Powerhouse team to argue for De Lima in SC orals
Who does Senator Leila de Lima have arguing for her in the Supreme Court? Veteran lawyers, prosecutors, and lawmakers.

MANILA, Philippines – A former solicitor general, two veteran prosecutors, and two prominent former senators are among the lawyers who will suit up to argue the case for detained Senator Leila de Lima before the Supreme Court (SC) in oral arguments which will start Tuesday, March 14.

De Lima is asking the SC for immediate reliefs which will have the effect of a recall of the arrest warrant. In totality, the senator is asking the high tribunal to nullify the drug cases filed against her before a Muntinlupa court, arguing that the trial court does not have jurisdiction over her cases.

The SC saw it necessary to defer decision on De Lima’s petitions and hear oral arguments first. De Lima is taking up this challenge prepared, enlisting the services of some of the best in the legal world:

1. Former solicitor general Florin Hilbay

Hilbay was the last solicitor general before Jose Calida took over under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Hilbay earned his law degree from the University of the Philippines and topped the bar examinations in 1999

Hilbay was also part of the powerhouse team that delivered the international victory for the Philippines in its case against China over the West Philippine Sea.

Hilbay is a former Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Boston College and obtained his Master of Laws degree from Yale Law School. 

2. La Salle College of Law dean Jose Manuel “Chel” Diokno

Diokno is the chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), a human rights group founded by his father, former senator Jose W. Diokno.

Diokno was part of the legal team that prosecuted police officers, including former Philippine National Police chief and now Senator Panfilo Lacson for their alleged involvement in the execution of members of the Kuratong Baleleng bank robbery gang.

Diokno graduated magna cum laude from the Northern Illinois University College of Law with the degree Juris Doctor of Laws (JD). He is the dean of the De La Salle University (DLSU) College of Law.

3. FLAG lawyer Alexander Padilla

Alexander Padilla was a human rights advocate during the Martial Law years, and continues to do such work for FLAG. Padilla, Diokno, and other FLAG lawyers are representing confessed Davao Death Squad hitman Arturo Lascañas.

Padilla worked as a Special Prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman, Senior State Prosecutor of the Department of Justice (DOJ), and later as head of the government panel in peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

4. Former senator Wigberto “Bobby” Tañada

Tañada is part of the Magnificent 12, or the 12 senators who voted to close US military bases in the country in 1991. He is the foremost lobbyist pushing for the distribution of coco levy funds to coconut farmers.

Tañada served as chairman of the Philippine Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism and Agrarian Justice Foundation. He obtained his Master of Laws from Harvard Law School.

Tañada was among those who opposed the hero’s burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

5. Former senator Rene Saguisag

Saguisag, along with Tañada, is part of the Magnificent 12 senators. He was elected senator in 1987 and served until 1992. He was one of the defense lawyers of former president Joseph Estrada in the latter’s plunder case.

Saguisag is also known for defending human rights victims during the Martial Law years.

He graduated cum laude from the San Beda College of Law in 1963 and obtained his Master of Laws as a full scholar from Harvard University in 1968.

Also on De Lima’s legal team are lawyers Phillip Sawali, her chief of staff, and Teddy Rigoroso.

Solicitor General Jose Calida will defend the public respondents in De Lima’s petitions. He had earlier filed his 97-page comment on why the SC should deny the senator’s petitions.

Calida previously boasted of his 100% grade in Criminal Law during the 1973 board examinations, challenging De Lima to reveal her marks in the same subject as the two clashed on issues involving Duterte.

Calida served as Undersecretary of the DOJ for 3 years. He obtained his Law degree from Ateneo Law School, where he was a consistent dean’s lister, according to his profile on the Office of the Solicitor General’s website. – 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.