COMMISSION on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) chairperson Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon has died due to complications from coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the commission announced Saturday, October 9, 2021.

In a Facebook post, the commission said Gascon passed away early Saturday morning at the age of 57.

“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 on human rights. He was undaunting in the fight for human rights, rule of law, and democracy out of deep reverence to the equal rights and dignity of all,” said lawyer Jacqueline Ann de Guia, CHR spokesperson.

An activist since his student days during the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos, Gascon later became involved in several civil society political movements fighting for human rights.

He was the youngest member of the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution when President Corazon Aquino came to power. He later had stints as undersecretary of the Department of Education, and as board member of the Bases Conversion Development Authority.

In 2017, the House of Representatives slashed the budget of the CHR for 2018 from the constitutional body’s proposed P650 million to a mere P1,000, ostensibly for its failure to investigate human rights violations by criminals and terrorists.

But the drastic cut also followed President Rodrigo Duterte’s displeasure at the CHR’s move to investigate possible human rights violations by government forces during the Marawi siege. The CHR had also long been a critic of Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.

Following backlash from social media, the House restored the CHR’s budget.

Gascon had headed the commission since 2015.

Commissioner Karen Gomez Dumpit will now be officer-in-charge at the CHR. (CTL)