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MANILA, Philippines – Commissioner Christian Robert Lim takes over as the acting chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), after former elections chief Andres Bautista stepped down from office on Monday, October 23.
Lim, the most senior Comelec commissioner in terms of length of stay in the poll body, will serve as acting Comelec chair until President Rodrigo Duterte names Bautista’s replacement.
While Bautista was the face of Comelec, Lim was the workhorse who practically ran the 2016 elections.
The low-key commissioner was the steering committee head for the polls that eventually elected President Rodrigo Duterte.
While other commissioners had their own assignments, Lim had the most comprehensive view of the election process. His colleagues, including Bautista, also often deferred to Lim when pressed by reporters to explain the nuts and bolts of the automated election system.
The 2016 polls saw record-breaking achievements: 81% of Filipinos cast their ballots, the highest voter turnout for automated elections. The transmission of votes was also the fastest in 2016, with the vote transmission rate already at 60% on the evening of election day.
Election watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting also praised the Comelec steering committee for the fast transmission of results.
It’s the second time for Lim to take over as acting Comelec chief. In January 2015, he was also named acting chairman following the retirement of former elections chief Sixto Brillantes Jr.
Lim joined the Comelec in April 2011 at the age of 38, one of the youngest commissioners appointed to the poll body. Former president Benigno Aquino III appointed him to replace retired commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.
Before joining the poll body, Lim was a private law practitioner for over 12 years.
He earned his law degree from Ateneo de Manila University and took the Bar in 1998, ranking 16th with a grade of 88.05%.
After graduating from law school, Lim joined the Carpio Villaraza & Cruz law offices as an associate from 1998 to 2000, before establishing his own firm, the Lim & Leynes Law Offices.
Lim also served as a private prosecutor in the plunder case against former president Joseph Estrada from April 2001 to September 2007, and was a deposition officer during the impeachment proceedings.
He was a private prosecutor in the Kuratong Baleleng murder case in January 2004.
Even before joining the poll body, Lim has had experience in election law. During the May 2010 presidential elections, he was part of the legal, anti-fraud and quick reaction team of the Bantay-Balota group of former president Benigno Aquino III and his running mate Manuel Roxas II.
His functions at the time included preparing legal opinions and giving counsel on issues such as disqualifications of candidates, lawful campaigning and campaign paraphernalia under the Omnibus Election Code and related laws. He also provided training to volunteers on automated elections, the Fair Elections Act, and fraud detection in an automated elections situation.
In the same year, Lim was also part of the legal team for the congressional candidacy of Vivienne K. Tan, daughter of Lucio Tan.
In the Comelec, Lim was appointed head of the Campaign Finance Office (CFO) which monitors candidates’ campaign contributions and expenses.
He introduced reforms in campaign finance monitoring – such as including the submission of soft copies of the Statement of Contributions and Expenses (SOCEs) – to improve monitoring of campaign expenditures. It was also meant to comply with the government’s open data policy, making public documents available and searchable online.
He resigned as CFO head in June 2016 after he objected to the acceptance of the late submission by the Liberal Party of its SOCE for the elections.
In September 2017, a graft complaint was filed against Lim over a 2015 contract with Smartmatic for the diagnostics and minor repairs of around 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. The complaint remains pending with the Office of the Ombudsman.
Lim is set to retire in February 2018. – with Michael Bueza/Rappler.com