MANILA, Philippines — Condolences have poured in over social media following the death of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Chito Gascon, who has been hailed as a champion for human rights.
Gascon died while battling COVID-19, his brother Michael said on Facebook Saturday morning.
Hours after his death, the CHR changed the profile picture of its Facebook and Twitter page into a black and white logo of the CHR to mourn the death of its leader.
Vice President Leni Robredo condoled with the family, friends, and colleagues of the late human rights defender.
“Sa trabaho niya at aktibismo (In his work and activism), Chito touched many lives. He was a student leader, advocate, and mentor that so many looked up to… His was a constant light in these dark times. 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,” Robredo said in a statement.
On Twitter, Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen praised how Gascon “stood [his] ground and inspired many.” “You will be missed,” Leonen said of the late CHR chairman.
Former Supreme Court spokesperson and law professor Ted Te, meanwhile, hailed Gascon for fighting the good fight.
“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,” said Te.
Senator Richard Gordon said he was saddened by the passing of Gascon.
“I am saddened to hear the news that COVID-19 has claimed another life in Chairman Chito Gascon of the Commission on Human Rights this morning,” the senator said.
For Human Rights Watch Senior Philippines Researcher Carlos Conde, Gascon’s advocacy for human rights “under these trying times” will not be forgotten.
Meanwhile, lawyer Tony La Viña described the death of Gascon as “a day of mourning.”
“Paalam at salamat (Goodbye and thank you), Chito Gascon. This is a day of mourning. Setting aside politics momentarily to remember a good friend, a servant of the people, a true believer and advocate of human rights,” La Viña said.
Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago also thanked Gascon for his battle for human rights.
“Maraming salamat at paalam, Chair Chito Gascon. Pagpupugay sa inyong paninindigan sa kabila ng tumitinding atake sa (Praise to you for standing firm despite the intensified attacks against) human rights defenders. The Filipino people, especially the youth, will forever be grateful for your manifold contributions to building a just and humane society,” Elago said.
A former student leader and activist himself in his youth, Gascon, who became a member of the Constitutional Commission, was instrumental in the passage of a legislation allowing the youth sector to participate in governance through the Sanggunihang Kabataan.
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary-general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, also extended sympathy to the family and friends of Gascon.
“We grieve with the human rights community over his untimely passing. We pay tribute to his work in the CHR which included supporting the cause of thousands of human rights victims of the Duterte regime, providing a safe space and sanctuary for human rights defenders, and amplifying calls for accountability over the reign of terror of this regime,” said Reyes.
“We thank him for his valuable contribution to the struggle for justice and the full realization of human rights. At a time of escalating state terror, Chito’s voice will be missed. We are comforted by the knowledge that many will carry on the fight. Paalam at pagpupugay, Chito,” he added.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana likewise extended condolences to the loved ones of Gascon. He said the Department of National Defense “recognizes the great work done by the CHR under Chairman Gascon in the implementation of human rights laws.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, meanwhile, said Gascon’s “tireless work as a human rights champion and the watchful eyes of the CHR further pushed the AFP to advocate and abide by the principles of human rights and International Humanitarian Law.”
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