Roseller T. Lim, a legacy of goodness and greatness PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 20 June 2011 14:32

“A good man’s work will live after him”... this old adage couldn’t be more true and applicable to Roseller T. Lim, in lieu of the following recognitions bestowed on him, 30 some years after his demise on 5th of July 1976.

Roseller T. Lim was among the Balikat ng Bayan (Public Service) Awardees of the Social Security System in October 2007 as it celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Among his co-awardees were the late Presidents Ramon D. Magsaysay and Carlos P. Garcia; Senators Cipriano P. Primicias, Manuel C. Briones. Pacita M. Gonzales and Marcelo B. Fernan; Congressmen Floro S. Crisologo, Angel M. Castano, Wilfredo L. Enverga and Enrico B. Aumentado.

Lim was given a posthumous recognition as remarkable and outstanding by the Se Jo Tong Lim (Lim Family Association of the Philippines) during the launching of its Commemorative Stamps featuring the pride of the Lim Family, last August 15, 2008. These stamps, in cooperation with the Philippine Postal Office, were launched in celebration of the 100 years of the Lim Family Association, which was founded in 1908 and in commemoration of PI Kan (Lim Ancestor) on his 3100th birth anniversary.

Lim’s career in public life began as a Good Samaritan. One late afternoon, as he was on his way home, passing through the wharf, he heard moaning which led him to a tall man cringing in pain as he had just undergone an appendectomy two days ago but had to report for work cause his employer refused to give him anymore leave. This resulted to the bursting of his fresh wound as he was a ‘cargador’ (stevedore) of sacks of rice and cement. Lim rushed him to the hospital, then rolled up his sleeves and returned to the wharf where the call for the very first labor strike in Zamboanga City, giving birth to Zamboanga City’s Labor Union, which became the Mindanao Federation of Labor, still existing to-date.

Lim did not end the strike until their grievances such as sick leave, minimum wage, overtime pay and eight hour per day work were met.
At this time, no laws were in place to protect laborers from abusive employers. Lim became very popular as a labor leader and this led to to his being drafted as the Nacionalista’s standard bearer for Congress in the 1949 Congressional elections pitting him against political giants, the incumbent liberal Congressman Juan S. Alano and the former Governor of Zamboanga Province Felipe B. Azcuna. At 34 years old, Lim won the elections by a landslide vote, thus begun his political career.

This led Lim to champion the laborers cause when he became a member of the House of Representatives not too long after. From his report entitled “My 14 years in Congress”: “I was a member of the Congress of the Philippines for 14 years. I have acquired the distinction of being the first Zamboangueno to be elected to the House of Representatives for a total of six years, first representing the Lone Congressional Seat of the then undivided Zamboanga Peninsula, which included Basilan Island; and subsequently, after the division of the Peninsula into Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga de Sur, as the first duly elected representative of the Lone Congressional district of the newly created Province of Zamboanga de Sur. “As such I have been honored by the sobriquet as the “Father of the Province of Zamboanga del Sur”. Entering into wider political horizon, I got elected Senator of the Philippines where I served for a total of eight years to earn once again the distinction of being the first native son of Zamboanga to be a member of the Upper Chamber.”

Becoming the first Filipino with a Chinese surname to win a national position was a fear in itself, because at that time, the ethnic Chinese were discriminated against, for one reason or the other. Lim had to repeatedly prove he was a natural-born Filipino citizen. Lim’s success paved way for others with ethnic Chinese names to hold positions in politics and the government.

...”during the whole period of my membership in the House of Representatives, covering the years 1950-1955 inclusive, I was consistently a member of the Committee on Public Works and Committee on Revision of Laws. As a member of the said committees, it was my duty to study all the bills presented along the fields of labor, public works and revision of laws. In 1953,1 was a member of the Committee on Fishing Industry and in 1954, of the Committee on Forests...on February 10, 1954 I was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Labor and Industrial Relation.

I introduced, together with 17 other Congressmen, House Bill No. 15 creating the Social Security System, providing for sickness, unemployment, retirement disability and death benefits for employees and laborers. This bill is now Republic Act (R.A.) No. 1611. I filed a bill, House Bill (HB) No, 2426 which, upon its enactment into law (R.A. 1131) improved our laws regulating the employment of women and children. My bill (HB 269) prescribing five days of labor for each week for all government employees and granting them extra compensation for overtime work, amending sections 562,5666 of the Revised Administrative Code and a was consolidated into HB 292. HB No. 1954, which I authored, amending section nine of the Minimum Wage Law, was borne out of my desire to improve the law affecting the wages of laborers and employees. Together with other members of the Committee on Labor, I studied the feasibility of revising the Eight Hour Labor Law so as to include workers in public utilities among the recipients of benefits and protection provided in the law. R.A. No. 1438 was my H.B. No. 2786 appropriating the sum of seventy-five pesos for the yearly expenses of the Philippine Representative and their advisers to the International Labor Conference...”

“As a Representative from Zamboanga, and in performance of my duties to the supreme authority - The Filipino people, I introduced in Congress bills of general application affecting the people in  the whole nation... Fields of human activity affecting the national economy were the subjects of my  bills... H.B. No 3815 (RA 1292) to encourage Filipino retailers and to create the Filipino Retailers Fund;  H.B. No. 2650 to amend the last paragraph of the Administrative Code which governs unlawful occupation or destruction of public forests... of far-reaching effect in the national economy of the Philippines is R.A. No. 1000 filed as H.B. No.2190 in 1954 and my name and those (other congressmen and Congresswoman Consing) appearing as co-authors, the law authorizing the President of the Philippines to issue bonds to finance projects for economic development, (the law also authorizes the President to Issue bonds to finance public works.)..! filed H.B. No. 1806 (R.A. 997) with (other) congressmen as co-authors, created the Government Survey and Reorganization Commission... R.A. 1205 (H.B. No. 684) which I authored with (other) congressmen converted all specially organized provinces into regularly organized provinces.. My other bills in the House of Representatives sought to amend certain sections of the Revised Election Code (H.B. No. 1750) to amend the Naturalization Law (H.No. 2880), authorize the Guerrilla Amnesty applications in certain case even if the same have already been decided by superior courts. (H. No. 1663) which became (R.A. 710), regulate the practice of advertising profession in the Philippines  (H. No .1248) and create a public corporation for the promotion and appreciation of music (H. No. 3431) with (other congressmen as co-authors; signed into law...(R.A. No. 1370)...! authored H.B. No. 273 (R.A. 685) for the establishment of a School of Fisheries in Zamboanga City; I authored H.B. No. 2883 (R.A.846) converting the Zamboanga Trade School into a Regional School of Arts & Trade known as the Z.C. Regional School of Arts and Trade... I authored with other congressmen as co-authors H.B. No. 4233 (R.A. 1374) authorizing the execution of public works projects or parts thereof piece work or “takay” basis... I authored H.B. No. 165 (R.A. 1145) with other congressmen as co-authors creating the Philippine Coconut Administration, prescribing its powers, functions, duties and providing for the  raising for its operations.”

Several municipalities, fifteen in all, were created in the province of Zamboanga del Sur. Several franchise bills were introduced in 1950 for various purposes, such as electricity, heat & power,  radio-telegram stations, etc...”

Citing a dozen more accomplishments for the province and the two cities, foremost of which are the following: “securing the transfer of prisoners from Muntinlupa to San Ramon... and recommending other prisoners from Zamboanga for executive clemency; with 20 Liberals and 10 Nacionalistas,  I submitted a petition to the President of the Philippines for the appointment of Don Pablo Lorenzo to the cabinet to give Mindanao more active participation in the Government... In 1954-1955, I was President of the Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan Congressmen Association...

During my eight years in the Senate of the Philippines I had been a member of its various committees. From 1956 to the present (1963), I have been a member of the committees of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Commerce and Industry, Health, National Defense and Security, Revision of Laws, and National Minorities, on Finance, Privileges and Election Laws, Justice and Transportation and Public Services as well as on Accounts, Provincial and Municipal Governments and Cities, Banking Corporation and Franchises, Codes and Constitutional Amendments and the Electoral Tribunal, the Social Justice Community Development and Welfare, where I was first appointed member, later appointed vice-chairman. On January 25, 1960, I was appointed Chairman of the Committee on Investigation (Blue Ribbon) of the Senate.”

Among the bills Lim filed and which became laws, were those amending the Social Security Act, the Magna Carta of Labor, the Philippine Labor Code, the Woman and Children Labor Law, amending the law establishing in the Philippines an Apprenticeship Training System and creating the Naitonal Apprenticeship Council.

Worthy of mention was Lim’s success in the fight for a regular seat for the Philippines in governing council of the organization. A metropolitan paper, the EVENING NEWS (July 20, 1957) carried in its column “You and Your Congress” by Salvador F. Saide an account of this as follows: “At no time in history of the International Labor Organization, an instrumentality established within the framework of the United Nations charter, has a Philippine delegation succeeded in influencing the decisions reached in an important ILO confab than the one led by Senator Lim, Chairman of the upper chamber’s  committee on Labor. Lim, assisted by Jorge Bacobo, well-known educator and law codifier, and-other hardworking members of the Philippine team to the recently concluded ILO plenary session in Geneva, Switzerland, out-generalled and out-maneuvered the rival of the Philippines for a regular seat in the government council of the global agency. He accomplished this feat despite the presence of a manifestly major government support. The Lim-piloted local team hard-pressed for U.S. dollars from the day its members departed from Manila up to the very minute they returned home. Its success in getting the Philippines elected to the ILO governing body is nothing short a miracle considering that Chairman Lim and the regular delegates of his group were impelled to observe the most stringent economy while  working on the representatives of ILO member-countries for votes in support of the Philippines.

“But, of course, the senate newsmen who know the Zamboanga senator rather intimately aren’t a bit surprised by the success he and his colleagues chalked up in the Geneva parleys. If Philippine labor has real and true friends, to their minds, none could be more dependable than Senator Lim himself.”

Other bills creating Committee on National Minorities to study the problems concerning non-Christian Filipinos, R.A. 3034 creating the Mindanao Development Authority, bills affecting and creating public offices amending certain provisions of the Law which created the National Waterworks and Sewerage Authority, but was vetoed by the President on June 22, 1957.

Barangay heads are now called Barangay Captains, instead of Barangay Lieutenants, because of Lim.
“In the process, I believe that I have properly conducted myself as to make the two Zamboangas proud of the fact that I did not merely discharge my duties but represented them with dignity and honor. As the first duly elected Congressman of the newly created Province of Zamboanga del Sur, I have provided the foundation for political, social and economic development. I initiated these functions by authoring thelaw (H.B. 2524) dividing old Zamboanga Province into two autonomous constituencies and the two separate laws amending the city charters of Zamboanga City and Basilan City...” “...the division of Zamboanga into two provinces and the transition of Basilan and Zamboanga Cities into autonomous constituencies have spurred economic gains for the entire congressional district... the highway linking Pagadian and Zamboanga City ,which is my modest contribution, has cut down travel to and from either terminus by a few hours instead of journeying for days through the perilous waters or the high sierras of the Peninsula; the airport in Zamboanga City has already became an alternate international airport... the highway has also encouraged the settlement and developed the urbanization of the offshore tribes and inland ethnic groups as well as the flow of settlers from the Visayas and Luzon; more small farms have been opened, accelerating our productive rate”.

Lim, unlike other politicians who would pool consolidate their political power, did not think of himself but of the constituents he served, for to him, people always came first.

Awards and Citation are eloquent proofs of my dedication to work... on September 17, 1952, 5h3 provincial board of the province of Zamboanga del Sur unanimously approved a resolution expressing the “boundless gratitude of the people of Southern Zamboanga” to me and acknowledging me the “Father of R.A. 711”, H.B. No. 292 (year 1955) of the City Council of Zamboanga expressed appreciation and spontaneous gratitude from the people and the City Council of Zamboanga for my achievements in the interest and welfare of my constituents and the political emancipation of the people of Zamboanga City for making elective the positions of Mayor, Vice-Mayor, and Councilors in Zamboanga City. On May 25, 1952, the Congressional Press Club cited me for pro-labor legislation during my first years in Congress and thanked me for the passage of the bill eliminating the 1% tariff duty on newspapers, congratulating me also for the enactment of my bill- one of the only two major local bills from 1950 to 1955 dividing the province of Zamboanga into Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur. The “La Opinion”, on June 30, 1952, chose me as one of the ten outstanding representatives that 1952, the LWBP chose me as one of the eight “honorable mentions” among the incumbent congressmen. The WMP congressmen in 1953.. The League of Women, as one of the twelve outstanding  members of the Congress.A Certificate of Award was given to me, following the selection of the 15 Congressmen for 1955 by the Philippine Congressional Bulletin, for having performed duties in a most “Commendable, distinguished and exemplary manner in Congress”. Finally,a Diploma of Merit by the League of Philippine Architects on April 9, 1955" for my contribution and enhancement of the architectural profession and for sponsoring

H.B. No. 64 known as the Architects’ Law.” As Senator Lim received on May 30, 1956 from the Senate Press Club as “Outstanding Senator of the Year; the Philippine Congressional Bulletin on the same year gave him a Certificate of Award for “Outstanding legislative performance during the third Congress of the Philippines”; a Certificate of Award as “Outstanding Senator; to the Third Congress of the Philippines by the Philippine Government Employees Association on July 20, 1957”; The Gold Star Mothers and War Windows and Orphans Association of the Philippines on Feb 29, 1958, and gave a Certificate of Appreciation for “generosity and sympathetic espousal of the cause of the War Mothers, Widows and Orphans of the Philippines:... For service in Congress, a Certificate of Honor by the Capitol News for “brilliance, active participation in parliamentary deliberations and proven admirable ability as parliamentarian during the First Session of the Fourth Congress of the republic of the Philippines” From 1959 to 1961, more awards and citation were received by Lim, too voluminous to further enumerate.
Finally in his own words, he relates the circumstance which led to his being called “The Great Filibuster”! “

In 1963, there was reorganization move by the Liberal Party (LP) senators in the Senate. Their candidate for the senate presidency was Ferdinand Marcos, the Nacionalistas (NP) of which I was then a part, fielded Fernando Lopez. There were 12 Liberals, the NP had the same number which included Senator Lorenzo Tariada of the Nationalist Citizens Party. Sen. AleJandro Almendras however was out of the country because he said he had to undergo goiter operation. Because there only 11 NP senators at that time and Liberals decided to present motion reorganizing the senate from the presidency down to the last chairman of the various senate committees. To frustrate that plan, I was therefore assigned by the NP to filibuster. I was to start my filibuster on that Monday but Almendras was schedules to arrive Thursday of that week, according to his cablegram. I was therefore assigned to hold the floor until the arrival of Almendras. Fortunately for me after 18 1/2 hours of continuous filibuster, many  senators were too tired and sleepy and had to leave the session hall. They had to move for the  adjournment. Sen. Roy, an NP was presiding. There were only seven of us on the floor when the LPs came back rushing to the session hall. It was too late, session had been adjourned. Thus I was saved from collapsing after almost two days of continuous talking. I was determined to continue filibustering until I shall have dropped dead on the floor of the senate. The physical strain that I suffered as a result of that filibuster  has been recurring in once in a while. “WHY DID I FILIBUSTER”? In order to CONSERVE DEMOCRACY.  At that time,the Lower House was already captures by the party in power. The only brakes to abuses of the administration then was the minority control of the Senate.

However when Almendras arrived from New York Doctors Hospital, he voted for Marcos the LP President for the senate presidency. Thus Amang Rodriguez, Mr. Nacionalista, was toppled from the senate presidency and the minority party lost control of the senate.”

This earned Lim the moniker “The Great Filibuster”... for which a monument of his was unveiled last 9 February, on his 94th birth anniversary, also celebrating EL DIA DE Senador Roseller T. Lim, by an ordinance dated August 17, 2006, passed by the City Council of Zamboanga City. This day will be celebrated every year commencing with a Mass at 8:00 a.m. and ending with a dinner where five Roseller T. Lim awardees from the youth sector will be awarded.

Lim’s memorabilia are exhibited at the National Museum in Zamboanga City to remind the youth of his accomplishments and of the great service he has done for them and their future. For as Confucius, the great Chinese philosopher said “study the past, if you would define the future”.

Lim became a Constitutional Convention delegate in 1971, and has the distinction of being one of the 49 delegates, out of more than 250, who did not sign and ratify the so-called Marcos Constitution of 1972.

In 1973, Lim was appointed as Appellate Justice to the Court of Appeals, where he became the source of information on labor and criminal laws for his co-justices. He succumbed to a fatal heart attack caused by atherosclerosis at 4:21 pm, 5 July 1976 at the Makati Medical Center, Makati, at the age of 61 years, with his family around him.

Lim was married to the beauteous Amy Mustafa Schuck of Jolo, Sulu & had five children namely: Rosamy, Mercibel, Victoria, Reseller and Amy Rose.
Lim was the oldest of nine siblings, 5 boys & 4 girls, born to Don Antonio G. Lim of Recodo,  Zamboanga City and Mercedes Robinson-Tarrosa of Mercedes, Lumbayao, Zamboanga City. Lim was fondly called “Ller” by his siblings and fellow Zamboanguenos.

Lim’s great-grandfather came from Amoy, Fujian Province, Mainland China, with another brother. They entered via Pnagasinan and emigrated to Zamboanga City.
Lim is a product ofJovellar Elem. School, Ateneo de Zamboanga (where he graduated as Valedictorian of his high school class), Siliman University, Dumaguete City (where he finished his Bachelor of Laws), passed the Bar with 84.7% grade the same year he graduated.

Lim loved sports. He was a golfer, with a 6 handicap; played chess and loved boxing (in fact he wanted to be a boxer, but thanks to his father, he became a lawyer instead).

Lim was a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, honorary member of several clubs and organizations such as Wack-Wack Golf and Country Club, Zamboanga City Golf and Country  Club (lifetime member), Army & Navy Club, Se Jo Tong Lim Association acting as adviser and facilitator.    Lim was responsible for giving the name of La Hermandad Zamboanguena , an association of  Zamboanguenos living in Metro Manila.

Titles and Honors conferred on him are the Great Filibuster, Champion of the Masses, Father of the Social Security Law, Outstanding Congressman for all the 6 years he served as Congressman of Zamboanga, Outstanding Senator for all the 8 years of his term. Father of Zamboanga del Sur, Founder and 1st president of Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan (MINSUPALA) Labor Org. He is fondly remembered by his constituents in Zamboanga as “El Gallo Sulangkang (the fighting cock) & El Nino Bonito”.

Lim was born February 9, 1915 in Recodo, Zamboanga City... died 5 July 1976 in Makati, MM as incumbent Court of Appeals Justice... buried in Zamboanga Catholic Cemetery, 10 July 1976... Lim’s bones were exhumed and buried with his beloved wife Amy, who died 22 September 2000, at the Loyola Memorial Park, Paranaque, MM.

Roseller Tarrosa Lim, the scholar, master debater (winning oratorical debates in high school) educator (taught at the Ateneo University and became Dean of Laws at the A.E. Colleges, now Universidad de Zamboanga); fiscal, labor, leader, prosecutor, fearless fiscalizer, legislator, Con-Con delegate. Court of Appeals Magistrate, Champion of the Masses, the Great Filibuster and Statesman, par excellence, was never meant to be just a footnote in our country’s history. His shadow looms large even today amidst a difficult political, social and economic arena and genre.