Commission on Human Rights

Robredo: Chito Gascon was a ‘constant light in these dark times’

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Robredo: Chito Gascon was a ‘constant light in these dark times’

HUMAN RIGHTS CHAMPION. CHR Chairman Chito Gascon joins families of drug war victims and fellow human rights advocates at the CHR to urge the UNHRC to vote for an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines, on

(1st UPDATE) 'May we all honor his legacy by following his example of compassion, courage, and integrity,' says the Vice President, who joined others in paying tribute to the CHR chairperson who died at the age of 57

Vice President Leni Robredo on Saturday, October 9, joined the nation in mourning the death of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Chito Gascon, and paid tribute to his decades of devoted service to the Filipino people.

“Ang dami niyang natulungan. Ang dami niyang na-inspire sa kanyang tapang at paninindigan (He helped so many people. He inspired so many with his courage and conviction). His was a constant light in these dark times,” the Vice President said as she expressed her condolences to the Gascon family, the CHR, and human rights advocates.

“It is now up to all of us to tend to this light. May we all honor his legacy by following his example of compassion, courage, and integrity. Rest in peace, Chito. Mananatili ka lagi sa puso naming lahat (You will remain in our hearts forever),” she added.

The Vice President recalled how Gascon began his human rights advocacy at a young age, and that she personally witnessed this when both of them studied at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman during the Marcos regime.

“Sa trabaho niya at aktibismo, Chito touched many lives. He was a student leader, advocate, and mentor that so many looked up to. Noong estudyante ako sa UP, sa mga martsa namin laban sa diktatura, si Chito ang nanguna bilang Chair ng UP student council. Binuksan niya ang pinto para makilahok nang mas malalim ang napakarami sa demokrasya natin,” she said

(In his work and as an activist, Chito touched many lives. He was a student leader, advocate, and mentor that so many looked up to. When I was a student in UP, in our protest marches against the dictatorship, Chito was at the lead as chair of the UP Student Council. He opened the door for many others to become more deeply involved in our fight to regain democracy.)

The Liberal Party said its former director general “inspired entire generations of Liberals from his days as a student activist up until his service with the CHR,” and that among his recruits were LP president Senator Kiko Pangilinan, former Ifugao congressman Teddy Baguilat Jr., and former congressman Erin Tañada.

“Sa maraming pagkakataong sinubok tayo ng kasaysayan, mula panahon ng martial law hanggang ngayon (During the many trying times in our history, from Martial Law until now), Chito was right there with us – ever reliable, relentless in defending freedom even at great personal cost, and always steadfast in his faith in our people and our democracy,” the LP said.

An inspiration to many

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra mourned the death of Gascon and said his loss would spur his department to “collaborate” with the CHR in human rights promotion and protection.

“We lost a very good man today.  His loss will inspire us even more to collaborate with the CHR to promote and protect human rights in our country,” said Guevarra, whose department leads the inter-agency panel that is reviewing the drug war cases under the Duterte administration.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana extended the Department of National Defense’s condolences to the family of Gascon, and acknowledged the “great work” of the CHR under his leadership.

“The DND recognizes the great work done by the CHR under Chairman Gascon in the implementation of human rights laws. He will be missed. May the good Lord give his family the strength and fortitude during these trying times,” Lorenzana said in a statement.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who had worked with Gascon as part of the government team in the Mindanao peace process under the Benigno Aquino III administration, said on Twitter: “Rest in peace, Chito Gascon.  You have stood your ground and inspired many.  You will be missed.”

Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate said he was “truly saddened to note that another untiring human rights advocate and defender  left us during this challenging times of pushing back tyranny.”

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Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, another member of the Makabayan bloc in the House, said, “The Filipino people, especially the youth, will forever be grateful for your manifold contributions to building a just and humane society.”

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te in his mini-tribute to Gascon: “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.”

Former presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that Gascon’s “bravery was without equal.” He recalled that when then-president Gloria Malacapagal Arroyo declare dMendiola off limits to ralles, the Gascon was the first among members of the Black & White Movement to cross Mendiola Bridge.

Fight continues

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes thanked Gascon “for his valuable contribution to the struggle for justice and the full realization of basic human rights.”

“At a time of escalating state terror, Chito’s voice will surely be missed. We are comforted by the knowledge that many will carry on the fight,” Reyes added.

Rights group Karapatan said that despite threats to the CHR during the Duterte administration, “Chito stood with us and other human rights defenders in our calls for justice.”

“He opened the Commission’s halls to the victims of human rights violations, political prisoners, and their kin as he closely worked with independent human rights organizations for dialogues and reports,” the group said.

Karapatan vowed to carry on with the fight for human rights in the country. “We will honor his memory by continuing to defend and uphold people’s rights and the struggle for just and lasting peace in the Philippines,” it said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) cited the role of Gascon in helping promote the protection of journalists under the Duterte administration, saying he “bravely stood up for human rights, freedom of the press and of expression despite the attacks against him and the CHR.”

Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, noted that Gascon was also “a staunch ally in the fight for climate justice – to protect Filipinos’ rights in the face of climate change.”

“Under his leadership, the CHR welcomed the world’s first climate change and human rights inquiry, which seeks to hold corporate giants accountable for climate impacts that caused human rights harms,” said Saño, a petitioner to the CHR’s Climate Change and Human Rights Inquiry.

“Despite the petition being an unprecedented case, he listened to the voices and pleas of typhoon survivors, the youth, and communities at the frontlines of the climate crisis. He cried for them and vowed to uphold the CHR’s mandate to investigate and monitor all matters concerning violations against human rights of the Filipino people,” he added. –

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