Ex-lawyer of PNoy & Mar is new Comelec commissioner
Never interviewed by anyone for the job, Lim said it was a surprise appointment
MANILA, Philippines [UPDATED]—The Palace today, April 4, 2011, named a 38-year-old lawyer and former member of the Aquino-Roxas legal team as commissioner of the Commission on Elections.
Christian Robert Lim was also part of the prosecution teams against former President Joseph Estrada, during the plunder trial against him at the Sandiganbayan, and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in the case pending against him with the Supreme Court over his alleged involvement in the Kuratong Baleleng massacre.
A bachelor, Lim (nicknamed “Bot”) finished law at the Ateneo de Manila University in 1998 and ranked no. 16 in the Bar exams that year. He worked with the so-called The Firm, the Carpio Villaraza & Cruz law offices (now renamed Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco), from 1998 to 2000, before setting up his own law firm, Lim Ocampo & Candelaria (now just Lim & Leynes).
His most prominent former election clients are President Aquino, defeated vice presidential candidate Mar Roxas, and defeated Quezon City congressional bet Vivienne K. Tan, daughter of tycoon Lucio Tan.
Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes remembers working with Lim during the last presidential campaign, Brillantes being also a former member of the Aquino-Roxas campaign team. He said Lim’s name was in the “long list” of 38 nominees and applicants for the two Comelec vacancies.
Lim said he learned of his appointment only through friends who read today’s Twitter alerts from ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel. After that, he received a call from deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte informing him officially of his appointment.
When asked if he was interviewed by the President or the search committee for the position, Lim said no. “I remember someone casually telling me I was one of the nominees, but I thought it was a joke,” Lim told Newsbreak. “It came as a big surprise, so now my law partner is panicking.”
Brillantes described Lim as an election lawyer who had come from a law firm that helped Roxas during the campaign, referring to the Villaraza law offices. One of the firm’s founding partners, former defense chief Avelino Cruz Jr., led the legal team of Roxas during the elections.
“I would see him in Cubao (referring to Roxas’s residence and campaign headquarters) to strategize and make sure that we didn’t commit mistakes” in the handling of issues that confronted the Aquino-Roxas tandem during the canvassing, Brillantes said.
Early this year, it was reported that Roxas had opposed Brillantes’s appointment as Comelec chair. A veteran election lawyer, Brillantes has served as counsel for major local and national candidates over the last three decades. He is also closely associated with Roxas’s rival in the last campaign, Vice President Jejomar Binay. (See: Why the secrecy in PNoy’s search committee?)
Lim clarified though that he served both the President and Roxas during the campaign. “I was brought to the campaign by my law partner (Nestor Leynes III), who had connections with the La Salle Greenhills group that was supporting Aquino,” Lim said.
He told Newsbreak it would be tough to be working in government, given his private sector experience. He said he is one of the counsels for former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio in an estafa case against the latter before the Ombudsman. “I am not generalizing but this is my fear, that decent people could also be charged.” Villa-Ignacio is a known critic of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Lim replaced retired Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, who was 37 years when he got appointed to the Comelec. Lim’s tem expires on Feb. 2, 2018.
During the plunder trial of Estrada at the Sandiganbayan, then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo got Lim as a deposition officer. It was during the trial when he met human rights lawyer Arno Sanidad, who then asked him to join their team in their pending case against Lacson and other generals with the Supreme Court.
He also joined Sanidad and two other lawyers in defending Newsbreak’s founding editor Marites Dañguilan Vitug in the P1-million libel suit filed in 2010 against her by SC justice Presbitero Velasco. Vitug is chairperson of the Board of Trustees of Public Trust Media Group Inc., which owns Newsbreak.
The young lawyer was also one of those who questioned the legality of former President Arroyo’s so-called midnight appointments to the Supreme Court in 2010.
The appointment of Lim leaves only one more vacancy at the poll body, the position vacated by retired Comelec commissioner Nicodemus Ferrer. - Newsbreak
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