De Lima pays tribute to Gascon for exemplary service, commitment in promoting human rights


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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 serves as a guiding light for many more who will follow his footsteps,” she said.

“It is only fitting that the Senate recognize Chair Gascon’s immeasurable contributions to public service and honor him for his exemplary service, dedication, and commitment in the upholding and promoting of 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, a 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 for 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) from 2001-2004.

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 five years.

“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. (30)

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