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APF Profile: Jose Luis Martin Gascon

Graphic: Jose Luis Martin Gascon - in yellow cap - at a run against torture

The new Chairperson of the Philippines Commission on Human Rights wants the organistion to be “more dynamic, more aggressive, more in your face”.

'Chito' Gascon reflects on his time as a student activist in the 1980s and the importance of the CHR delivering on its promise to promote and advance all human rights for all people, everywhere

He was a rousing student leader at the University of the Philippines during the 1980s.

During the turbulent times that followed the assassination of political leader Benigno Aquino Jnr in 1983, Jose Luis Martin Gascon – known simply as Chito – played a prominent role in the anti-dictatorship movement that would eventually see the toppling of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

In 1986, he was the youngest member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 charter. He would go on to have a direct hand in crafting many of the country's laws. His ambition was to help build a better society, based on fundamental values of equality and justice.

Some thirty years later, Gascon is the new Chairperson of Philippines Commission on Human Rights.

Experience has shown him that the work for reform is a continuing effort.

"It does not happen overnight and it does not happen in a transition from one leader to another. You need to help build institutions and you need to make institutions work to deliver on the promises of justice and peace," he said in an interview with the APF.

"The Commission on Human Rights is one of those key institutions that needs to work. It needs to deliver so that we can guarantee a set of circumstances that will allow our people to flourish."

Strengthening partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders – including government agencies, the security forces, civil society and human rights defenders – will be a critical part of driving genuine, long-term change, Gascon says.

Graphic: Jose Luis Martin Gascon with other Commissioners of the CHR

He also wants the Commission on Human Rights, now operating for 28 years, to be "more dynamic, more aggressive, more in your face" so it can deliver on its promise to "promote and advance all human rights, for all people, everywhere".

"We want to infuse new energy and new ideas in the work that we have to do," he says.

"There are many real issues that remain in the country, issues that we were fighting for when I was a student. But the difference now is we have some institutions that should be able to work. What we need to do is to remind ourselves of our mission and that the work for change is not complete."

Date: 23 September 2015

Image credits

  1. Jose Luis Martin Gascon - in yellow cap - at a run against torture - Chito Gascon, Facebook; http://on.fb.me/1gTlKd1
  2. Jose Luis Martin Gascon with other Commissioners of the CHR - Chito Gascon, Facebook; http://on.fb.me/1gTlKd1