Karapatan: Renalyn Tejero’s arrest is the latest in a spate of attacks vs rights workers

Human rights watchdog Karapatan said that the arrest of its paralegal staff Renalyn Tejero in Cagayan de Oro City is “the latest in a spate of attacks targeting Karapatan and our human rights workers under this fascist regime, where people like her who stand in the defense of people’s rights either face arrests on trumped-up charges, or death.”

“Renalyn Tejero is a young, brave, and dedicated human rights worker — and for her work, she has faced various threats and red-tagging. She is not a criminal nor a terrorist, and there is no question that these charges against her are fabricated and are only obviously meant to threaten her, to silence her from continuing her human rights work,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay asserted.

Around 5 a.m. yesterday, March 21, Tejero was arrested in Brgy. Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City by a composite police and military team based on trumped-up charges of murder and attempted murder. For hours, no one knew where she was taken until it was later confirmed that she was under the custody of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 13. As of 7 p.m. yesterday, she was reportedly brought to the PRO 13’s headquarters at Camp Colonel Rafael Rodriguez in Butuan City after she was arrested.

Tejero is a Lumad-Manobo who graduated from the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) in 2013. She successfully passed the Department of Education’s placement exam and went on to take a bachelor’s degree in Sociology at the Caraga State University (CSU) as a full scholar of the Enfants du Mekong Foundation. At the CSU, she became the chairperson of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines – CSU Chapter and was elected senator of the CSU student council. Upon her graduation in 2018, she became a full-time human rights worker and later, paralegal, for Karapatan – Caraga.

Palabay stated that “Renalyn was not served a subpoena for these bogus charges against her — therefore denying her of her right to due process as she was unable to participate in the preliminary investigation to prove her innocence and dismiss these charges. Those who filed these cases against her simply have no intention to uphold her rights as they have already charged and arrested her under the convoluted mantra of ‘guilty until proven innocent.’ They have already branded her as a criminal clearly without any intention to let her assert her innocence.”

Before her arrest, Tejero has been constantly red-tagged by State forces under the Duterte regime for being an alumna of ALCADEV and for her human rights work as a Karapatan paralegal. Facebook posts and tarpaulins were mounted in public places all over Caraga accusing her and other activists in the region of being NPA. In November last year, Tejero and another Karapatan – Caraga officer, Dr. Naty de Castro, were among the 32 progressive leaders and activists whose photos and names were included in red-tagged tarpaulins posted in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and Butuan City.

“The public vilification and red-tagging of Renalyn as a prelude to trumped-up charges and arrests has targeted Karapatan and our human rights workers especially under Duterte. Just two weeks ago, another Karapatan paralegal, Nanay Nimfa Lanzanas, was arrested during the Bloody Sunday police raids in Southern Tagalog — and many more human rights workers from Karapatan are behind bars or are facing fabricated charges obviously meant to malign, vilify, and discredit our human rights work,” the Karapatan official said.

“We assert the call to free Renalyn Tejero and to dismiss all these trumped-up charges against her. Defending people’s rights is neither a crime or an act of terrorism — and these lies against us will not stop us from our work in the face of a regime that brazenly disregards and violates human rights. We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to ring the call to free Renalyn and to stop the arrests of activists and human rights workers now, and to stand against tyranny and fascism,” Palabay concluded.