Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon has passed away following his bout with Covid-19, his family announced Saturday. He was 57.
“Of all the fights you’ve fought, it was Covid that defeated you! Love you Kuya. Rest in Peace Chito Gascon,” his brother Miguel said partly in Filipino in a Facebook post.
Gascon was appointed CHR chair in 2015.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia, in a statement, described Gascon’s leadership as inspirational and nurturing where he impressed upon personnel and fellow human rights workers the impact and value of their work, especially to those who have it least.
“At a time of unprecedented human rights challenges, Chair Chito courageously and steadfastly upheld the constitutional mandate of the Commission,” de Guia said.
“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 the Commission en banc (CeB) would continue to function with Commissioner Karen Gomez Dumpit as officer in charge.
In a tweet, former Supreme Court spokesperson, lawyer Theodore Te called Gascon a “giant for human rights.”
“Chair Chito Gascon, rest in power. You fought the good fight. You stood your ground and held fast. You took the fight to the enemy. You were a giant for human rights. The forest is barer because of your fall, but the seeds that you planted will yield fruit,” Te said.
European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron also sent his thoughts, saying the delegation was in shock with Gascon’s passing.
“(The EU Delegation in Manila) is in shock with the passing of Chair Chito Gascon our friend and partner in upholding human rights and dignity for all in the Philippines. Our thoughts and prayers to Chito’s family, CHR members, and staff. Chito Gascon’s vision will live on,” Veron said.
French Ambassador to the Philippines Michèle Boccoz said she would remember Gascon as a “good friend” of France in upholding shared values on democracy and human rights.
“Chito Gascon courageously dedicated his life to the defense of human rights and democracy in the Philippines. He was a good friend of France in upholding these shared values. I offer my sincere condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues at CHR,” Boccoz said in a tweet.
Gascon was a political activist and a social reformer, with work focusing on human rights, democracy, and governance for more than three decades.