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Commission on Human Rights chair Chito Gascon passes away at 57

By Camille Santiago Published Oct 09, 2021 11:45 am

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon has passed away due to coronavirus, his brother said Saturday, Oct. 9.

"Sa dami mong Laban, sa COVID pa tayo na talo! Love you, Kuya! RIP Chito Gascon," Miguel said in a Facebook post on Saturday morning.

Several friends and supporters paid tribute to the human-rights activist, including Vice President Leni Robredo and Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

VP Robredo said the late rights defender "touched many lives" through his works and activism.

"Noong estudyante ako sa UP, sa mga martsa namin laban sa diktatura, si Chito ang nangunguna blang Chair ng UP student council. Binuksan nya ang pinto para makilahok nang mas malalim ang napakarami sa demokrasya natin," the VP said.

“His was a constant light in these dark times. It is now up to all of us to tend to this light,” she added.

Without mentioning Gascon in a tweet, Leonen said the human rights leader supposedly gave up his hospital bed so that other patients could use it. 

"Before he died, he asked to be taken home so that others can use his hospital bed," he said in a tweet. 

"This is what being a human being looks like, a true leader," he added.

CHR Spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia released an official statement regarding their chairman's passing. She said Gascon's leadership has "inspired and nurtured a culture of enabling, empowering, and safe environment."

"At a time of unprecedented human rights challenges, Chair Chito courageously and steadfastly upheld the constitutional mandate of the Commission," she wrote adding that the late Chair was very steadfast in fighting for human rights and freedom despite the attacks he and the agency have received. 

She also promised that CHR will continue Gascon's legacy "with equal fervor and sincerity" with Commissioner Karen Gomez Dumpit as the officer-in-charge of the commission en banc.

Human rights lawyer Ted Te also tweeted a message for Gascon. He said: "Chair Chito Gascon, rest in power. You fought the good fight. You stood your ground and held fast. You took the fitht 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."

Human rights worker Philip Jamilla recalled that time the late chairman "gatecrashed" their training "for some light banter" and "the many other times he stood in with us in our calls for justice."

"You fought a good fight, sir. Rest in power," he tweeted.

Gascon was a political activist and social reformer whose work focused on human rights, democracy, and governance. He fought relentlessly against the rights abuses in the country, including President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

In 2015, he was appointed by then president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III to be the chairman of the CHR. His term was supposed to expire on May 5, 2022.