The Philippines has misplaced a beloved human rights defender. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, identified to all as “Chito,” who had chaired the governmental Fee on Human Rights since 2015, died October 9 from issues attributable to Covid-19, his household mentioned. He was 57.
Pals and allies within the human rights motion mourned Gascon’s passing. “The nation misplaced a devoted public servant who by no means cowered in concern in asserting folks’s rights and civil liberties,” mentioned Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid, a gaggle advocating for the rights of political prisoners. “Amid the challenges confronted by the CHR … he carried on with dignity, energy and braveness,” mentioned Jacqueline Ann de Guia, Gascon’s colleague on the fee. Even the army, typically the goal of fee investigations, paid its respects.
Gascon championed fact telling as a method for the Philippines to deal with the horrors of its previous. Earlier than his appointment as CHR chair, he was a member of the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board, which administered reparations for the victims of martial regulation abuses within the Nineteen Seventies and Nineteen Eighties. “Remembering serves as society’s bulwark in opposition to tyranny and the evils of violence, discrimination, social exclusion that include it,” Gascon mentioned in a speech final 12 months.
Gascon’s idealism sprang from his publicity to politics through the tumultuous Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, which he opposed as a pupil chief on the College of the Philippines. After Marcos was ousted in 1986, President Corazon Aquino appointed Gascon because the youngest member to the fee that drafted the 1987 Structure. He then represented the youth in Congress, the place he advocated laws to guard kids, amongst others. Over a few years he held a string of human rights-related positions each inside and out of doors of presidency.
Gascon’s loss of life comes at a vital time for the Philippines. The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has dedicated catastrophic rights violations by way of its “drug conflict” and different abusive insurance policies, and has sought to destroy establishments selling accountability such because the CHR. “That is going to be an extended, arduous battle,” he advised me the final time I noticed him three years in the past, tapping his cane on the ground of his workplace. “However we’ll overcome.”
Filipinos decided to beat the continued relentless assault on their rights ought to take inspiration from the dedication of Chito Gascon.