The Fred Lim no one knew

August 18, 2020

DIRTY Harry. Ama ng Libreng Serbisyo. Ama ng Libreng Edukasyon.  Kamay na Bakal.

​Mayor Alfredo S. Lim’s long-running career as an honest, incorruptible and tough public servant earned him these monikers among many others, highlighted initially by his feats as chief of the country’s premier police district, then called the Manila Police Department (later renamed, Western Police District) and subsequently the National Bureau of Investigation, which became truly worthy of its status, given its record-breaking achievements during his rein and with the likes of the late Gen. Robert Barbers and Capt. Reynaldo Jaylo working under him.

​Known for his iron-fisted stance against all kinds of shenanigans and underworld denizens both as a police officer and a mayor, Lim made headlines and was a household name at a time when there was no cellphone or online news yet, moreso, a vibrant social media like we have now.

​This unique popularity and the public admiration heaped on him, unprecented specially among law enforcers in this country,  jumpstarted Mayor Lim’s political career and he took on the challenge of running for mayor amid overwhelming public clamor, at a time when policemen did not dare enter politics.

​He won handily and became the first top cop turned mayor of the country’s capital city of Manila and even in the whole nation, a post which he held for four terms or an equivalent of 12 years and to the chagrin of various criminal elements involved in illegal drugs, prostitution and syndicated crimes. Lim virtually opened the doors of politics to law enforcement members and the rest is history.

In Manila, he finished his four terms (1992 to 1998 and again from 2007 to 2013) as city executive, with an untarnished reputation as a public servant and an unprecedented legacy in the history of mayors all over the country.

Known for his ‘womb-to-tomb’ program (this is originally his) which he introduced in 1992 and where free services were provided for the poor, Lim made sure that from the time that one is in his mother’s womb (via free pre-natal care) up to his death (via free crematory services, wake and burial), the city government is there to offer its free services.

Of the six city hospitals giving free medical services for the poor, a program which is being ably sustained by the current administration of Mayor Isko Moreno after it was left in disarray by his (Lim’s) successor, five were built by Lim, namely Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center (District 1); Ospital ng Tondo (District 2); Justice Abad Santos General Hospital (District 3); Ospital ng Sampaloc (District 4) and Sta. Ana Hospital (District 6).  The flagship hospital, Ospital ng Maynila, was the lone hospital in the city when he took over the mayorship in 1992.  In all six hospitals, free treatment, hospitalization and even take-home medicines were given to the patients.

​Lim also established a first, not only in the metro but in the entire country --- a zero tuition college which he named, the ‘City College of Manila (renamed Universidad de Manila)’ where totally free college education was offered for average students, to complement the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila which caters only to honor students from public high schools. 

​In these his major projects --- free hospitals and free college--- Lim used himself as a template.  Growing up in a life of poverty, Lim knew how difficult it is to get sick and not have a penny to spend on a single medicine, moreso, treatment.  He also supported his own studies by taking on odd jobs like being a shoeshine boy, selling native delicacies on the street, as a warehouseman, security guard and a bus conductor, among others. 

​His other remarkable accomplishments include the establishment of 485 free daycare centers, along with 97 new buildings for public elementary and high school;  59 barangay health centers offering free medicines and treatment of minor illnesses; 12 lying-in clinics offering free delivery of babies for poor, pregnant women; 132 newly-made roads; free playgrounds and sports complexes and the centralized disaster evacuation centers in Delpan, Tondo and in Baseco.

The rest, of course, is history. He also became Senator, DILG Secretary and was recipient of countless awards for his equally countless achievements.

​He spent 58 years or more than half of his life, rendering public service. Of these years, 50 were dedicated to serving Manila and its citizens--- 38 years as a member of the law enforcement and 12 years as city mayor.

In all his years as a public official, Lim had established a reputation as someone who used an iron-clad approach on every post he ever held. He was unquestionably tough and definitely a stickler for established laws and rules.  He became known as a protector of the oppressed and defender of the weak and those who have less in life and in law.

Thus, his mere presence, couple with his stiff image and looks, always had an auto command effect. Whenever he entered a public venue, everything becomes quiet and awe just takes over. Either he struck fear or just commanded high respect, since his reputation as a no-nonsense public official and a person definitely preceded him.

​In fact, this fearsome image of his was always evident in that during campaigns, residents would immediately put their shirts on and behave properly, on learning that Lim would be making the rounds in their area, even if he were just there to campaign and was still far away. 

​In my next column, I will let you in on some details of Mayor Fred Lim’s life that were never made public. Things about him that we learned and our unique experiences with him as our friendship, which began in 1992, spanned nearly three decades without us noticing it.  In short, I will let you in on the other side of Mayor Lim. (To be continued)

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