Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairman Chito Gascon has died of COVID-19 at the age of 57. His brother, Miguel Gascon, confirmed the news over the weekend.
“Sa dami mong laban, sa COVID pa tayo na talo! Love you Kuya! RIP Chito Gascon,” Miguel said in a Facebook post.
(Of the many battles you’ve faced, the one you lost to was COVID! Love you, older brother! RIP Chito Gascon)
Those close to Gascon also posted their own memorials.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement: “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.”
“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.”
“His was a constant light in these dark times,” her statement read. “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.”
Gascon had long been a human rights advocate; in his college days, he served as the Chair of the University of the Philippines Student Council, where he mobilized protests and led student marches against the Marcos dictatorship.
As an adult, he served in the CHR for six years, where he actively investigated against President Duterte’s controversial war on drugs. Despite opposition and hostility from the government, the commission was able to carry out investigations on 3,423 drug-related extrajudicial killings.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Gascon’s leadership “exemplified the essential role of human rights advocates in upholding the liberties of all.”