Gascon hurt by Duterte's comments, seeks to raise public discourse


Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Chito Gascon admitted Wednesday he was hurt by President Rodrigo Duterte's comments calling him "gay" and a "pedophile."

Speaking to CNN Philippines' the Source, Gascon said while he is familiar with the President's fiery rhetoric, he hopes Duterte will trade his harsh words for more constructive debates in the future.

"I still hope that that might happen eventually - he might withdraw this hurtful language and raise the level of the public debate. Even if we disagree with each other we should be respectful of each other, but maybe that will be for another day," Gascon said. 

On Saturday, Duterte asked if Gascon was a pedophile for focusing on the killings of teenagers in the drug war, following the series of killings involving minors.

Gascon said Duterte's comments come with the job.

"On a personal level, they're hurtful, unfortunate, but I understand that this is part for the terrain that I must navigate…. We know that this is the way the President talks," he said.

He said he will continue to perform his duties despite sharp criticism from the President.

Gascon and Duterte have been at odds since the President took office. Duterte has, on several occasions, chastised the CHR for focusing on abuses of policemen in the drug war.

The President has also accused Gascon of being "pro-yellow," or supporting the opposition.

READ: Duterte on ₱1,000 CHR budget: Gascon had it coming

Gascon said he disengaged from the Liberal Party in 2014, and denied his actions were "motivated by political considerations."

"I'm able to distinguish between what I need to do in politics on one hand, and now heading a constitutional office that's supposed to be an independent non-partisan body," he said.

Gascon also remained firm he would not step down as CHR chair, even as House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez challenged him to resign so the agency may regain its proposed P678-million budget.

"Despite all of these calls, I have not (resigned) because my conscience is clear," he said

Gascon said while he believes anyone with a "heart for human rights" and "the ability to serve" could perform just as well as him, he feels the need to protect the CHR given the present circumstances.

"I am the head of an independent office that is supposed to check on the other branches of government, I cannot at this time allow the institution to be undermined and assaulted in a way that its future will be in jeopardy," he said.

The commission will continue to appeal to the Lower House to reconsider its 2018 budget. Gascon said he is "cautiously optimistic" the lawmakers will change their minds.

"It (my record) may not be perfect in the eyes of many people, but I'm doing the best I can with what I have and I hope it will be sufficient," he added.