Open main menu

José Luis Martín C. Gascon (Spanish: [xoˈse lwis marˈtin gas.kon]) also known as Chito Gascon (Spanish: [ˈt͡ʃito gas.kon]) is a Filipino lawyer, civil organizer, and human-rights activist. In 2015 he was appointed by President Benigno S. Aquino III as the Chair of the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines (2015-2022).[1]

Chito Gascón
7th Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights
Assumed office
18 June 2015
PresidentBenigno Aquino III
Rodrigo Duterte
Preceded byLoreta Ann P. Rosales
Personal details
José Luis Martín Gascón

Manila, Philippines
Alma materUniversity of the Philippines Diliman
St Edmund's College, Cambridge

Prior to that he served as member of the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board, the body mandated by law to administer a program of recognition and reparations to victims of the Martial Law Regime. At this office, he held a rank equivalent to Justice of the Court of Appeals. He is a political activist and social reformer who has been working on human rights, democracy, and governance concerns for over three decades.



Gascon fought the Marcos dictatorship as a student leader. In the wake of the assassination of Senator Ninoy Aquino on 21 August 1983, he helped mobilize protest actions in schools demanding justice for all and radical political change. In 1985, he was elected Chair of the University of the Philippines Student Council in 1985 and led the youth movement that actively participated in the Non-Violent People Power Revolution in February 1986. He organized Human Rights Awareness Fairs in campuses and was an active member of Amnesty International Philippine Section at which he served for many years as a board member. He also actively campaigned for the release of Political Prisoners and visited detention centers with Lingap Bilanggo. He is a member of Liberal International's Human Rights Committee & was also alternate member in the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Judicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances established under AO 35. He was in the Official Delegation for the 2012 Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva that was led by Justice Secretary and former CHR Chair Leila De Lima.

He has been involved in many different civil society political alliances working for human rights and democracy such as the Kongreso ng Mamamayang Pilipino (KOMPIL 1 & 2), Bansang Nagkaisa sa Diwa at Layunin (BANDILA), the Black & White Movement, Social Liberals & Democrats for the Advancement of Reforms (SoLiDAR), and Re:Publika@DemokraXXIa - a new network of progressive activists. He was previously the Executive Director to both the liberal think tank National Institute for Policy Studies (NIPS) from 1987-2002 and LIBERTAS - a lawyers' network on the Rule of Law from 2005-2008. He was founding trustee and corporate counsel of the International Center for Innovation, Transformation, and Excellence in Governance (InciteGov) - the policy group of the so-called "Hyatt 10," and is part of its Advisory Group. He is Founding Trustee of the Institute for Leadership, Empowerment, and Democracy (iLEAD) and was in the organizing committee of the Asian Democracy Network (ADN). He was Director General of the Liberal Party from 2008-2011 and was Political Director of its successful 2010 National Electoral Campaign. He has taught Law, Politics, & Human Rights at the Political Science Departments at both the Ateneo de Manila and De la Salle Universities. He was also a Fellow at the Robredo Institute of Governance (RSIG).

In the transition to democracy, during the term of President Corazon C. Aquino, he served as the youngest member to both the Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution and the 8th Philippine Congress, passing legislation that institutionalized youth participation in local government (Sangguniang Kabataan) as well as a special law providing for special protection of children from all forms of abuse (RA 7610). He has held several senior positions in government, such as separate stints as Undersecretary at the Department of Education (DepEd, from 2002-2005) & the Office of the President (Political Affairs, from 2011-2014). He was also a Board Member of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) from 2010-2011.

He served as Panel Member at Peace Negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) from 2001-2004 and had served as the Chair from 2010-2014 of the Government's Human Rights Monitoring Committee (GPhMC) of that peace process within the framework of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). He has also assisted in peace negotiations involving the conflict with Muslim rebels in Mindanao as 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 Ad Hoc 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.

His continuing reform advocacies are in the areas of human rights, access to justice and the rule of law, transparency and accountability initiatives, political and electoral reforms, peace and conflict transformation, people's participation and civic education, and state building in the context of democratic transitions. Among the fellowships and recognitions he has received are:

As chair of the Commission on Human RightsEdit

On 18 June 2015, Gascon was appointed by President Benigno S. Aquino III as the new Chair of the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines for the 2015-2022 term.[1] Gascon succeeded Etta Rosales who resigned on 5 May 2015. Executive Director Marc Cabreros served as officer-in-charge of the commission after Rosales' resignation until Gascon's appointment.[2]

Education and personal lifeEdit

He has a Bachelor of Arts (BA Philosophy) and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degrees from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, and a Master of Law (LLM) degree specializing in International Law (Human Rights, Law of Peace, and Settlement of International Disputes) from St. Edmund's College, University of Cambridge, as a member of and through a joint British Chevening and Cambridge Overseas Trust Scholarship. He attended the 1997 Summer Institute on Human Rights administered by the International Institute for Human Rights with the European Human Rights Mechanisms in Strasbourg, France. He has also attended specialized seminars at the Theodor Heuss Academy for Freedom in Gummersbach, Germany and with the Center for Democratic Initiatives at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. He is married to Melissa P. Mercado and has a daughter, Ciara Sophia.


  1. ^ a b Ho, Alex (15 July 2015). "Gascon is new human rights head". CNN Philippines. Retrieved 16 July 2015.
  2. ^ Elemia, Camille (18 June 2015). "Aquino names LP official as new CHR chair". Rappler. Retrieved 18 September 2017.