CHR chairman Chito Gascon dies after bout with COVID-19
MANILA, Philippines — Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon has passed away fighting a bout of COVID-19. He was 57.
His brother Miguel posted about the death of the CHR chairman in a Facebook post on Saturday morning.
“Sa dami mong laban, sa COVID pa tayo na talo! Love you Kuya! (In all the battles you fought, we had to lose you to COVID. I love you, brother!)” said Miguel.
Sa dami mong Laban, sa covid pa tayo na talo! 😪🙏Love you Kuya! RIP Chito Gascon
Gascon left behind his wife and minor daughter.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia also confirmed Gascon’s passing in a text message to INQUIRER.net.
“Yes, he passed away,” she said.
In a statement, De Guia praised their chairman who “courageously and steadfastly upheld the constitutional mandate of the Commission.”
“Amidst the unrelenting attacks against the institution and to him personally, he was unwavering and unflinching in fighting for the universal values of freedom, truth, and justice that are essential in the pursuit of human rights. He was undaunting in the fight for human rights, rule of law, and democracy out of deep reverence to the equal rights and dignity of all,” she said.
“His leadership in the Commission has inspired and nurtured a culture of enabling, empowering, and safe environment that moves CHR personnel to always serve with genuine compassion or Serbisyong may Malasakit, utmost integrity, and excellence. He impressed upon the CHR personnel and fellow human rights workers the impact and value of our work especially to those who have it least,” she added.
According to De Guia, Commission en banc will continue to function with Commissioner Karen Gomez Dumpit as Officer-in-Charge.
Human rights crusader
A lawyer, Gascon was appointed as chairman of the CHR by the late former President Benigno Aquino III in 2015. His fixed term was supposed to expire on May 5, 2022.
Prior to that, he was a member of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board, a quasi-judicial body created in 2013 through Republic Act 10368 which seeks to process the reparation of victims of human rights abuses during the martial law under the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
Gascon fought the Marcos dictatorship as a student leader and activist.
He also served as Board Member of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) from 2010–2011, then as a member of the Office of the President from 2011-2014.
When the late former President Corazon Aquino assumed power after Marcos government was toppled, she appointed the young Gascon to be a member of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, the youngest member to have served the body at that time.
During the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Gascon served as undersecretary of the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) from 2002-2005. He later joined the so-called “Hyatt 10,” a group of Cabinet secretaries who resigned from their posts following the “Hello, Garci” election scandal that rocked the Arroyo government after the 2004 presidential elections.
A staunch critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, the CHR under Gascon always came under fire from Malacañang and many of the Chief Executive’s supporters for allegedly always taking the side of the victims of the government’s bloody war against illegal drugs.
His passing couldn’t have come at a most inopportune time considering that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is set to conduct an “independent and impartial” investigation into the human rights situation in the Philippines, including drug war killings, as it seeks to “uncover the truth and aim to ensure accountability.”
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