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A young brilliant ‘Pilo’ from Tondo aspires for senate


By Deedee M. Siytangco 


Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power. —John Steinbeck



Pilo Hilbay (Image by the author)

Of all the senatorial candidates in the 2019 elections, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay piques my interest the most.

Looking at the long list of aspirants for the Upper Chamber, I can confidently say that Hilbay has the solid background and the capability as a lawmaker.

Luckily, I had the chance to sit down with him for a chat last month. Though it was short, I had the opportunity to know Hilbay a little bit more.

Right off the bat, Hilbay made me and the other media persons in the lunch group feel at home and comfortable as he wanted us to simply call him by his nickname Pilo.

Born and raised in Tondo, Manila, Pilo was a graduate of the Holy Child Catholic School in Tondo, and of the University of Santo Tomas where he finished his Bachelor’s degree in Economics.

Pilo said he decided to pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer as he wanted to help people in need of legal help. Coming from a poor background he knew how important it was to get help from the right sources.

Hilbay finished his law degree at the University of the Philippines College of Law with flying colors as he topped the bar examinations in 1999.

This is a rare feat considering that Pilo is not from a privileged background or a family of legal eagles and luminaries. He simply shone on his own and soar he did! Instead of working with famous law firms where he was expected to earn big bucks, Pilo chose to give back and train the country’s next generation of lawyers, the classroom.

Pilo became the youngest faculty at the UP College of Law in 2000. In 2005, he decided to further hone his skills by obtaining his Masters of Law Degree from Yale University.

Pilo also gained valuable legal experience by working with former Senate president Jovito Salonga at Bantay Karapatan, an anti-corruption organization for seven years.

Organization for seven years. In 2014, he entered government service after he was appointed as senior state solicitor and made history by becoming the youngest solicitor general under the 1987 Constitution in 2015.

During his time as SolGen, Pilo was instrumental in recovering 60 billion pesos worth coco-levy funds for Filipino farmers.

He also led the Philippines’s legal team to the Hague, and was successful in defending the country’s ownership of the West Philippine Sea against China. In winning the case for the country, his name is the one in the historic documents, which he earnestly hopes will not be thrown aside in this administration’s romance with China.

Even though his term as solicitor general ended in 2016, Pilo continues to defend the Constitution by bravely taking on the cases of opposition senators Leila De Lima and Antonio Trillanes. 

While most of his time is spent on politics and legal issues, he keeps himself busy by playing basketball which he turned into a hobby since his younger days in Tondo.

Pilo also relaxes by playing the guitar and jamming with friends in “gigs” and to let off steam. He also loves surfing and enjoys watching anime cartoons, which is what he calls his “peak millennial” self.

At 42, he is still a bachelor and is mum about his special girl in his life, but according to the grapevine he is “sweet” on smart and talented singer Agot Isidro with whom he shares a great admiration for VP Leni Robredo.

Beyond this juicy tidbit, our lips are sealed. Cheers to Pilo! The Senate needs you!

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