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Bishops honor CHR chief Gascon: 'He was bold amid suppression, intimidation'

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Bishops honor CHR chief Gascon: 'He was bold amid suppression, intimidation'
The urn containing the ashes of Commission on Human Rights Chairman Chito Gascon was displayed at the CHR office in Quezon City yesterday.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Catholic bishops have condoled with the nation after the death of Commission on Human Rights chief Chito Gascon over the weekend. 

Gascon, 57, died from complications due to the coronavirus on October 9. 

"Condolences to the Philippines for the loss of Human Rights Commissioner Chito Gascon," said Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, the incoming president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. 

Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo honored Gascon as not only courageous, but also "bold at a time when supression, intimidation, and violence are expressly encouraged by those in power."

The CHR under Gascon was active in monitoring the government's "war on drugs", often earning the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte and his supporters.

Lawmakers allied with Duterte in 2017 tried to give CHR a budget of P1,000 for 2018. Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao del Sur), House speaker at the time, called the agency useless. "If you want to protect the rights of the criminals, get your budget from the criminals. It's that simple," he said in Filipino then.

"He (Gascon) is our symbol of hope that justice can prevail if only, like him, we stand by the truth and defend the weak at all cost," Bagaforo, also national director of Caritas Philippines, said.

Tributes from lawmakers and groups poured in soon after the announcement of Gascon's death. 

He was named CHR chairperson in 2015 by then President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who also died this year.

Gascon's work in human rights, democracy and governance spanned more than three decades.

Among others, he was the youngest member of the constitutional commission that drafted the country's 1987 charter. Gascon's term at the CHR was supposed to last until 2022. 

"With his untimely death, we are reminded that time is of the essence," Bagaforo added. "Justice especially for the poor and the marginalized cannot wait."

CHR has announced the public viewing and memorial service for Gascon would be at the agency's Liwasang Diokno until October 16 from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

The date of his inurnment was not immediately available. 

CATHOLIC CHURCH CHITO GASCON COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
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