MANILA, Philippines — After President Rodrigo Duterte likened him to a pedophile, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairman Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon on Monday appealed to the chief executive to raise the level of public discourse to a more “honorable” discussion.
“Nasanay na rin po tayo sa mga salitang medyo masakit at medyo below the belt mula sa bibig ng Presidente, pero umaasa po tayo na baka sakali, sa usaping pambansa, sa level ng marangal na usapin,” said Gascon during an interview with dzMM radio.
[We’ve gotten used to hurting words and below the belt statements from the mouth of the President but we are still hoping that we can have an honorable discourse when it comes to issues of national importance.]
“Sabi ko nga kung p’wede ma-withdraw po ni Presidente ‘yong mga gano’ng mga masakit na pananalita…na kahit na hindi tayo nagkakaunawaan, maaring meron tayong dialog,” the CHR chief added.
[As I’ve said, if it’s possible for the President to withdraw his hurting words…that even if we don’t agree, we would still have a dialog.]
Asked during the interview if he would resign amid the criticisms being hurled against him by Duterte and the President’s allies, Gascon said he would not quit his post because he needed to defend the CHR’s independence.
“So tanong mo, bibitiw ba? Under the current circumstances na mayroong ganitong klaseng pressure, kailangan kong idepensa ang independence ng Commission on Human Rights. I will stand my ground, I will not abandon my watch,” said Gascon.
Last Saturday, Duterte likened Gascon to a pedophile after the CHR chief expressed his concern over the deaths of youngsters amid the administration’s war on drugs campaign.
“That Gascon, how many days has he been saying: ‘teenager, teenager’? He is like a pedophile, that son of a whore,” Duterte said.
“Why are you so interested in teenagers? Are you (a pedophile?) I am questioning this. Are you gay or a pedophile?”
“Teenager, teenager, son of a whore, it is all politics. Why can’t you move on to other issues that are besetting this country?” the President said, referring to the problem faced by the government in Mindanao caused by Islamist extremist groups led by the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.
“Just because a kid was killed? That happens everywhere,” added Duterte.
On Monday, Gascon denied claims that he was acting as the Liberal Party’s spokesperson and that he was selectively raising concern on issues that question the credibility of the present administration.
“Ang human rights hindi usaping neutrality kundi objectivity. Ibig sabihin, kung may nagyayaring violation, dapat manawagan ka. Kung may mga paglabag, dapat sabihin mo. So s’yempre, may mga magagalit. Pero ang tinitingnan po natin d’yan ay ‘yong realidad, ‘yong fact. Trabaho lang,” he said.
[Human rights is not about neutrality but objectivity. That means that if there’s a violation happening, you should raise it. If there are violations, you have to talk about these. Of course, there will be those who’ll get angry. But what we are looking at here is reality, the fact. It’s just a job.]