Several personalities mourned the sudden passing of Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon who passed away on October 9, Saturday.
Gascon died due to COVID-19, his brother stated in a post. He was 57 years old.
“Sa dami mong Laban, sa COVID pa tayo na talo! (crying and prayer emojis) Love you, kuya! RIP Chito Gascon,” wrote Miguel Gascon.
Gascon was appointed to lead the commission in 2015 under the late former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
He had been defending human rights and democracy in the Philippines for more than 30 years in his career.
Gascon was the youngest member of both the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution and the 8th Philippine Congress during the term of late former President Corazon Aquino.
The CHR would remember him as “unwavering and unflinching” in the fight for human rights amid the continuous attacks against the institution.
“Amid 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,” said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia.
“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,” de Guia added.
The commission would be led by Commissioner Karen Gomez Dumpit as officer in charge.
Tributes to the late human rights activist
Some of Gascon’s colleagues and friends took to social media to express their grief over the human rights activist’s untimely passing.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen on Twitter recalled his selfless act before he died.
“Before he died, he asked to be taken home so that others can use his hospital bed. This is what being a human being looks like, a true leader,” Leonen said.
In a separate tweet, the Supreme Court justice added: “Rest in Peace, Chito Gascon. You have stood your ground and inspired many. You will be missed.”
Former SC spokesperson Theodore Te also described him as “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.
Rep. Lawrence Fortun of Agusan del Norte, meanwhile, grieving for the loss of “a very good friend.”
“It was awfully painful I could not hold my tears. I did not only lose a very good friend, brother and comrade. The country lost a brilliant, brave, selfless and unrelenting activist, advocate and defender of democracy, justice, rule of law and human rights,” Fortun said.
“This is a very sad day for a country amidst imminent threats to fundamental rights and freedoms,” he added.
The lawmaker also shared a few photos of them in separate post as he bid goodbye to Gascon.
“Paalam at maraming salamat, Chito, sa iyong taus-pusong paglilingkod at inspirasyong kailan man hindi namin malilimutan,” Fortun said.
Vietnamese human rights lawyer Trinh Hoi shared a video clip of Gascon telling them about the importance of fighting for human rights.
“‘It’s important to struggle, to fight’. These are the last words my dear friend, Chito Gascon, shared with me and others in my Manila office before this raging pandemic robs us of so many things. I miss you, Chito. I miss you terribly,” the lawyer wrote.
‘It’s important to struggle, to fight’. These are the last words my dear friend, Chito Gascon, shared with me and others in my Manila office before this raging pandemic robs us of so many things.
I miss you, Chito. I miss you terribly. pic.twitter.com/wTY2BdXbMV
— Trinh Hoi (@trinhhoivoice) October 9, 2021
Other human rights activists likewise remembered how they met Gascon.
Chito Gascon was one of my idols as a young activist. He was our chairman in the UP Student Council and our leader in Nagkaisang Tugon. Although he was too mestizo to look like an aktibista, he really imbibed need for social justice and was our firebrand sa mga rally. RIP Chito
— Teddy B. Baguilat (@TeddyBaguilatJr) October 8, 2021
Woke up just now to the heart-breaking news that Chairman Chito Gascon had passed away. I remember this one time he “gatecrashed” our 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. pic.twitter.com/8FYvVsGcXL
— Philip Jamilla (@pmjamilla) October 9, 2021
I will miss that passion and commitment to people’s rights of Chito Gascon, a classmate, co-counsel, and a friend.
Chito may have passed, but my memories with him during our student days will always be with me.
Paalam and rest easy, my friend. pic.twitter.com/qfKdv1SYM4
— Neri Colmenares (@ColmenaresPH) October 9, 2021