Florin Hilbay answers questions from editors and reporters during a visit to The Philippine STAR the other day. / File
MANILA, Philippines — Former Solicitor General Florin “Pilo” Hilbay has announced his decision to leave Aksyon Demokratiko, the political party of presidential candidate and Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, as the former vowed to support Vice President Leni Robredo’s campaign for the presidency in 2022.
In a statement posted on his social media channels, Hilbay thanked his political party mates for their support in the past and said that his decision to leave the party came about because of his intent “as an ordinary citizen, to publicly support her campaign.”
This comes just days after Cesar Chavez, Moreno’s chief of staff, also left his post to return to broadcasting. As he exited the campaign, though, Chavez stressed that his move was not due to rumored “infighting” in the presidential candidate’s team.
“I am leaving Aksyon not to join another party, but out of ethical considerations. I respect the decision of my party to choose [Moreno] as a candidate for president, but also believe VP Leni is a much better candidate in this most crucial of elections,” Hilbay said in his statement Monday morning.
A known critic of the current administration’s policies, Hilbay was involved in the arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea. The arbitral tribunal ruled in 2016 that China’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea do not have basis in international law.
Political realignments are common during the election season. Aksyon Demokratiko itself said over the weekend that the party “had 4,000 more or less candidates jumping ship from different political parties nationwide.”
Hilbay in his statement called attention to “issues of immense importance” in government, including “accountability for [extrajudicial killings,] Chinese interference, climate change, a broken financial system, imperilled mass media, fake news, surveillance capitalism, [and] impending war.”
“We need a president who will confront problems not with publicity stunts to manipulate Filipinos but with honest-to-goodness attempts at solutions,” he wrote. “We do not need more of the same, or even less of the same. We can’t afford another narcissistic, gaslighting troll for a president. A candidate who wakes up only during campaigns is no leader, and we can’t have another absentee president.”
“[Robredo] is a president who understands why the Marcoses are a current threat; she will hold Duterte and his cronies accountable for their crimes; she will stand up to China and not see the West Philippine Sea as merely for sale.”
Where does Isko stand on these issues?
Moreno has presented himself as an alternative candidate and was in a brief word war with President Rodrigo Duterte and his officials prior to the filing of candidacy papers earlier this month.
He had previously been supportive of the administration’s programs and policies.
Amid criticism of the dolomite beach white sand project along the Manila baywalk, he said he had “no problem” with it despite opposition from environmentalist and civil society groups.
He has also said he would continue the administration’s flagship ‘drug war’ but said the anti-narcotics campaign under his prospective presidency would respect human rights and would not tolerate extrajudicial killings.
In a January 2020 interview with ANC’s “Headstart”, Moreno stressed that the public should acknowledge Duterte’s “effort” in confronting the drug issue, going as far as saying that “nobody” tried to confront the issue before Duterte did.
“I think with that you have to give an ‘A’ for the effort. That is not a joke, the problem with drugs is deeply entrenched,” he said partly in Filipino.
“I am nobody to assess everything especially if I don’t have the entire picture of the problem. Because it is quite unfair for the effort that [is] being done because nobody tried to confront this except President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.”
On the issue of the Marcoses, Moreno has minimized the issue as a “family feud” despite documented cases of human rights violations as well as graft and corruption during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
“We will never ever forget what happened in the past. What I want is for us to move forward…We deserve to live in the present and work together for a better future,” he was quoted as saying at a pre-campaign event.
“We don’t forget what happened in the past; we will always remember their mistake, with their successes, we will duplicate and innovate,” he also said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum last week.