One time, while we were on our way to an appointment aboard the same car with Mayor Fred Lim, we were passing by a marketplace when he told Nato to stop the car. He got down without telling us why. We got off too, to find out what he was up to. He approached a young lad who was carrying his brother piggyback style. It turned out that he was carrying his brother on his back on the way to school because the latter had polio and could not walk.
Immediately, Lim called out his aides and directed them to get the lad’s contact details and deliver to their home a wheelchair. He also handed money to the youngster. It was a random act of generosity and kindness that made us love Mayor Lim all the more. Note that there was no fanfare and he did not even ask us to write about it.
Some of Lim’s erstwhile political rivals meanwhile have told us it was puzzling to them why so many remain loyal to Lim despite the fact that he is 'stingy' and ‘masungit.’ The former is actually one reputation that Mayor Lim does not deny and is even proud of. When we say, ‘kuripot ka daw’ his answer had always been ‘talaga.’ I told him I angrily denied that he was 'kuripot' and then he asked why. I said:"Kasi di ka naman kuripot...sobrang kuripot!" and he would burst into laughter.
The truth of the matter is that it is because he was not corrupt and was never into the habit of stealing government money. ‘Pag ang pera ninakaw mo lang at di mo pinaghirapan, madaling gastusin,’ he always said.
He may be stingy alright, but when it comes to rewarding loyalty and friendship and returning favors, he was very,very generous. If you have served him well and had shown loyalty as a friend, he would treasure you ‘til death and protect you from those out to discredit you.
Since ‘siraan blues’ is commonplace in public offices, I remember telling Mayor Lim to at least hear us out should someone try to discredit us before him. He said he would not bother and that instead, he would tell the basher this: “Alam mo, matagal nang sira sa akin sina Itchie at Jerry.” With this line, Lim said the matter would surely be put to rest as moot and futile. I laughed and said it was a good one.
He was old school in countless ways which were all good. He would not miss out on invitations to special occasions like birthdays, baptisms and confirmations. He also makes sure to be there when he is asked to be a wedding sponsor. He visits his own people or friends who get hospitalized. He attends wakes and burial when his friends and loyal supporters lose a loved one. If it’s his friends or supporters who pass on, he is sure to condole with the bereaved family and pay his last respects.
I personally know a good number of times when he would visit a friend or a loyal supporter or official in a hospital and even pay for his or her bills even if he knew that that person was already dying and will no longer be useful to him. He also shouldered the burial of those who died penniless.
Mayor Lim is also the kind of person who values ‘word of honor’ and making it to his appointments on time or even ahead of the slated time. He would often quote Gat Andres Bonifacio’s words of wisdom: “Sa taong marangal, ang bawat salita ay panunumpa.”
He has no tolerance for double-talkers and ‘plastic’ and would say it to one’s face. He is tough on criminals and would not take injustice sitting down.
Remember the infamous incident known as ‘filmfest scam’ where he, despite the odds, went up on stage and stopped the awarding ceremony after being told that the declared best actor and best actress were not actually the real winners?
Commonly, the public would also associate Lim with ‘instant justice.’ While this is mere speculation and without proof, it would be fair to note that the incidents where the said ‘instant justice’ was served involved revolting crimes like the case of a six-year-old girl who was raped in a warehouse after which the suspect bashed her head with a hollow block because she was crying in pain.
After the press conference where the suspect narrated, without any remorse whatsoever, how he brutally gagged, raped and killed the girl and then tried to rape a student he came across with on his way to escape (the rape did not push through when the girl jumped into a creek) Lim told the one in charge of the city jail, ‘O, bahala ka na diyan.’
Reporters egged on the official to tell them what Mayor Lim meant, but he kept mum. Within two days, the suspect was killed while attempting to escape detention. Whatever happened there, the poor, innocent girl and her family got the justice they so deserved.
It was Lim’s brand of justice which earned him the moniker ‘Dirty Harry’, a character played by Clint Eastwod where he played the role of policeman Harry Callahan who delivered justice in unconventional ways.
Lim’s toughness was a result of his life experiences. He himself was a victim of injustice on several occasions during his much younger days. He told us that as a young boy during the Japanese occupation, he was carrying on his shoulder a sack of rice and was on his way home when a Japanese soldier signalled him to come near. As he did, that soldier slapped his face for not bowing. This stirred patriotism which he carried all his life. Proof of this was how he always espoused our national heroes in his speeches and how eager he was to immortalize our fallen heroes by having built monuments for them, like his idol Gat Andres Bonifacio in whose honor he built a shrine right beside the Manila City Hall.(to be continued)
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