The chairman of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon, passed away last October 9. His death was caused by complications from the Covid19 virus.
In a statement, CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann De Guia said: “At a time of unprecedented human rights challenges, Chair Chito courageously and steadfastly upheld the constitutional mandate of the Commission. Amidst 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.”
De Guia was, of course, referring to the way the CHR has faced many hurdles in light of President Rodrigo Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs. Back in 2017, the House of Representatives voted 119-32 giving the CHR a budget of P1,000. It all but shut down the commission, a decision slammed by many Filipinos.
Earlier that year, during a press conference after his second SONA (State of the Nation Address), Duterte had threatened to abolish the CHR altogether. This was a knee-jerk reaction given the way CHR had backed Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch’s take on the war on drugs.
President Duterte attacked Gascon’s person as soon as the controversial P1,000-budget ruling came to pass. “He had it coming. Gascon is pro-yellow; he opens his mouth in a most inappropriate way and he conducts the business of being CHR. He doesn’t know anything,” he told the media.
Gascon was a defender of human rights, and was a staunch critic of the President’s violent and deadly ways. Duterte did not appreciate this whatsoever, once even telling reporters that “Gascon is nothing, I would even kick him.”
In the same statement regarding Gascon’s death, De Guia added that “[Gascon] 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.”
The 1987 Constitution’s Section 18 states that the CHR must “monitor the Philippine Government’s compliance with international treaty on human rights.”
Photo: The Philippine Star