CHR chair Chito Gascon dies of COVID-19

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 9) — Commission on Human Rights chairman Chito Gascon has succumbed to COVID-19, his brother confirmed Saturday. He was 57.

“Sa dami mong laban, sa COVID pa tayo na talo! Love you Kuya! RIP Chito Gascon,” his brother Miguel Gascon said in a Facebook post.

[Translation: Of all the many battles you have fought, you lost to COVID. Love you, big brother! RIP, Chito Gascon.]

Gascon has served the CHR for six years. Prior to his leading the CHR, he was a member of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board, the body tasked to receive, evaluate, and investigate reparation claims made by victims of human rights violations during Martial Law.

The human rights lawyer and political activist was also the youngest member of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, as well as the 8th Congress.

Gascon graduated from the University of the Philippines with an undergraduate degree in philosophy, then obtained a Bachelor of Laws from the same school.

Inspiration to many

His death was met with a flood of tributes from former colleagues and friends.

"His leadership in the Commission has inspired and nurtured a culture of enabling, empowering, and safe environment that move CHR personnel to always serve with genuine compassion... utmost integrity, and excellence," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement.

CHR vowed to "continue the human rights work with equal fervor and sincerity that Chair Chito exemplified in his work."

Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit will serve as officer-in-charge, following Gascon's passing, de Guia said.

Meanwhile, Vice President Leni Robredo honored Gascon as someone who "touched many lives" and "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,” she said in her message.

Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said Gascon stood his ground and "inspired many."

Former SC spokesman Ted Te described the rights chief as a "giant for human rights."

The Armed Forces, for its part, called the CHR chairman a “human rights champion” who “further pushed the AFP to advocate and abide by the principles of human rights and International Humanitarian Law.”

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Richard Gordon Gordon also mourned the passing of their fellow public servant and friend.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Melissa and Ciara Sophia and the Gascon family,” Gordon posted on Twitter.

“My heart goes out to Chito’s family and friends in these tough times, and most especially to his beloved Melissa (they were my inaanak sa kasal) and to Ciara, the apple of her Papa’s eyes. Please accept our sincerest condolences. He will be missed,” Hontiveros said in a statement.

French Republic to the Philippines Ambassador Michèle Boccoz and European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron remembered Gascon as a “friend” in upholding human rights in the country.

Liberal Party vice president Teddy Baguilat said Gascon was one of his "idols as a young activist."

Gascon has been a human rights defender since the Marcos regime. He was also a vocal critic of the Duterte administration's bloody drug war.