I HAVE not met him in person. Nor did I come across a profile of his credentials. But it would be a grievous professional malfeasance, so to speak, if I did not know that he was once a National President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. And a former solicitor general at that.
Indeed, it would be an unforgiveable insensitivity to our patrimony, if we will not salute him, along with the entire Philippine legal contingent, for being responsible to that favorable ruling of the International Arbitral Tribunal upholding the Philippine sovereignty over that previously disputed West Philippine Sea.
And so, to Atty. Florin Hilbay and illustrious company, accept our heartfelt gratitude for successfully arguing the historic and superior right of the Philippines over such a vital maritime territory. Certainly, such an invaluable service to our country will never be forgotten.
The estimated worth of rich fisheries and gas reserves indigenous in our West Philippine Sea is far greater than the combined foreign loans and donations extended to the Philippines in recent memory. We are indeed very grateful for the trust and humanitarian spirit that this altruism coveys. But in reciprocating let not any portion of our territory be compromised, especially that of our West Philippine Sea.
In any case, the idea that the West Philippine Sea serve as a zone of peace, cooperation and friendship is gladdening. Nevertheless, such a view does not appear to inspire trust and confidence from within simply because the proposition does not recognize the sovereignty of the acclaimed owner thereof.
But in a world where superior arms play a dominant role in the settlement of disputes between and among nations, the non-assertive stance of the Philippine government over the evident trespass in the West Philippine Sea is understandable. “Beggars can’t be choosy.” In the meantime, let us take comfort in the fact that the whole world recognizes our ownership thereof. Again, we salute Atty. Hilbay for his invaluable role in making that happen.
Atty. Hilbay also deserves a pat in the back for leading the cause of the government that led to that Supreme Court ruling upholding the legality of that controversial but much-needed Reproductive Health Bill during the term of President Noynoy Aquino. The opposition to this bill is so intense that it takes extraordinary political will to make it survive in order to institutionalize responsible family planning.
If only for the two aforecited landmark achievements during his incumbency as Legal Counsel of the government, Atty. Hilbay has shown patriotism, competence and integrity in public service. As a young student, I am witness earlier to the same qualities exhibited by Apung Dadong Macapagal and senators Lorenzo Tanada, Jose Diokno, and Raul Manglapus, to mention a few, within the chandeliered halls of the Old Legislative Building which now house the National Museum. I trust that the Filipino people will soon summon enough love of country to empower Atty. Hilbay to join the ranks of these great legislators as loyal and uncompromising sentinel of our national heritage.
It is also important to note that Atty. Hilbay is a bar topnotcher and a law professor in the University of the Philippines. Like former Mayor Alfredo S. Lim, Atty. Hilbay hails from Tondo, Manila, of humble origin. Together, they left public service untainted with any issue of corruption. They do not represent any vested interest nor do they belong to any political dynasty.
Thus, I wish to see Atty. Hilbay someday not necessarily in person, as he is not a showbiz personality but as a Senator of our Republic.