By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima honored the late
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Chito Gascon for his
invaluable contributions in upholding, protecting, and promoting human
rights exemplified by his crusade to stand for the sanctity of justice
and human rights even amid rising threats of repression.
In filing Proposed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 932, De Lima said Gascon
will always be remembered as an epitome of courage and resolve who had
never cowered even in the face of threats of reprisal.
“His decades-long crusade to stand and advocate for the sanctity of
justice and human rights now serve as a guiding light for many more
who will follow in his footsteps,” she said.
“It is only fitting that the Senate recognizes Chair Gascon’s
immeasurable contributions to public service and honor him for his
exemplary service, dedication, and commitment in the upholding and
promoting human rights, justice, and accountability,” she added.
Gascon, a lawyer, civil organizer, and a lifelong human-rights advocate
had succumbed to COVID-19 at the age of 57 last Oct. 9.
De Lima, social justice and human rights champion herself, noted
that Gascon’s background on human rights and political reform is rife
with both wisdom and experience.
Gascon has been described as a “longstanding social justice activist”
who “began organizing against the Marcos dictatorship as a student
leader before the 1986 nonviolent People Power Revolution.”
In the midst of the martial law reign and in the wake of the
assassination of the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” S. Aquino Jr. on
August 21, 1983, Gascon helped mobilize protest actions in schools
demanding justice, human rights, and political change.
Gascon held several key government positions such as Undersecretary
for Legal, Legislative and Special Concerns at the Department of
Education (DepEd) from 2002-2005, Board Member of the Bases Conversion
Development Authority (BCDA) from 2010-2011, and Undersecretary for
Political Affairs at the Office of the President from 2011-2014.
He likewise became a part of the Government Delegation to the UN Human
Rights Council for the Universal Periodic Review in 2012 and a Panel
Member for Peace Negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF)
Further to his notable role in peace processes, De Lima noted that
Gascon assisted in peace negotiations involving the conflict with
Muslim rebels in Mindanao.
He was a member of the Technical Working Group on Power Sharing and
Alternate Panel Member in peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF), and with the AdHoc High-Level Working Group for the
Tripartite Review of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro
National Liberation Front (MNLF) together with the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation’s Peace Committee for Southern Philippines.
As one of the critics of the rampant extrajudicial killings and human
rights abuses under the current administration, De Lima said Gascon
was no stranger to personal attacks hurled against him in the last
“When pressed by media for a reaction on tirades made by President
Duterte and his allies against him, Chair Gascon would honorably
remark, ‘trabaho lang tayo,’” De Lima shared.
“Chair Chito Gascon’s tireless service to the Filipino people
deserves not only our gratitude but our utmost respect. He is one of
the few good men in government who served no master but the law and
the Filipino people,” she said. (ai/mtvn)