Chito Gascon, chair of the Commission on Human Rights, dies at 57

At the age of 57, Cito Gascon died on October 9, 2021, following a COVID 19 infection. Since 2015, the lawyer had been chairman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) – his term would have ended in May 2022. As a fierce critic of Dutertes so-called war on drugs, he shaped the CHR’s stance accordingly. Thus, Duterte’s government and its supporters repeatedly brought the CHR under fire – for example, accusing it of always siding with the victims of the so-called war on drugs. Jacqueline De Guia, spokesperson for the CHR, described Gascon in her statement as follows: „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.“

Prior to his work for CHR, he was a member of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board, responsible o process compensation for victims of Ferdinand Marcos’ regime. Following the Marcos dictatorship, and at the beginning of Corazon Aquino’s presidency, he participated in the drafting of the 1987 Constitution as a member of the Constitutional Commission.

Among numerous expressions of condolence from politicians and human rights organizations, Leni Robredo, presidential candidate and current vice president, also expressed her sentiments, saying, “He was a constant light in these dark times.” In particular, she recalls the activism they shared against Ferdinand Marcos. „When I was a student in UP, in our protest marches against the dictatorship, Chito was at the lead as chair of the UP Student Council. He opened the door for many others to become more deeply involved in our fight to regain democracy.“

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