Press Release
October 16, 2021

De Lima pays tribute anew to Gascon, says he was one of her staunchest, most dependable defenders

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima shared that she will always be grateful to the late Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Chito Gascon for being one her staunchest and most constant and dependable defenders.

In her tribute for Gascon entitled "A Farewell to My Colleague, My Friend, My Defender," read on her behalf by her Chief of Staff, Atty. Fhillip D. Sawali, via a video recording that was played during the separate necrological services held by the Commission on Human Rights and the Liberal Party, both held on 15 October 2021, De Lima said she is honored to have met, worked with, and been on the receiving end of Gascon's compassion for human rights victims and commitment to human rights advocacy.

"On a personal note, kung meron mang silver lining sa mga pinagdaanan natin nitong mga nakaraang taon, it is that I got to know Chito on a more personal level, not as a fellow human rights advocate, but as a victim and one of my staunchest and most constant and dependable defenders," she said.

As one of the critics of the rampant extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses under the current administration, Gascon, like De Lima, had been on the receiving end of attacks from Duterte in the last five years.

While one can spend years speaking about defending human rights, and advocating for justice for victims, De Lima maintained that nothing can ever prepare someone "for being a victim yourself."

"The helplessness is real, no matter how strong you think yourself to be. Panghihinaan ka talaga ng loob, and in those times, strength not only comes from within, but also from those who are there to help," she shared.

"And Chito was there for me. A defender and a victim, yes, but fellow human rights advocates from beginning to end," she added.

De Lima said she thanks Gascon for being one of those who continued to see her as a fighter, and not just a survivor of abuse.

"He was there for me because he knew that I was an innocent victim of political reprisal and persecution, owing much to my own work as a human rights advocate," she said.

"He helped keep my story alive in the minds of allies here and abroad. He acted as my de facto ambassador in various international fora (acting as advocate and co-champion), such as UN, and NGOs based mostly in Geneva, New York/Washington, and Brussels (EU HQ)."

"He told not just my own story of victimization, but also the root cause of it as a defender of human rights, rule of law and democracy. Hindi n'ya nakakalimutan kung bakit ako napadpad sa PNP Custodial Center nitong huling apat at kalahating taon. He fought for me as a victim, and as a defender," she added.

The former Justice Secretary and Gascon have worked together in the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Judicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances established under AO 35. They have also worked, traveled and represented the Philippines together as part of the Official Delegation for the 2012 Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which De Lima was assigned to lead.

Recently, De Lima filed Proposed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 932 honoring 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.

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