CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – “She did not resist arrest although she was surprised to see her arrest warrant”
This was how Maj. Evan Viñas, the city police spokesperson, described Renalyn Tejero, the paralegal officer of the human rights group Karapatan, during her arrest by at least three police units just as she was waking up at 5 a.m. on Sunday (March 21).
Tejero is facing charges of murder and attempted murder for the killing of two tribal leaders on March 19, 2020, according to Maj. Dorothy Tumulak, Caraga regional police spokesperson.
Tumulak was referring to tribal leaders Datu Bernandino M. Astudillo and Zaldy Acidillo Ybañez, who were held by the communist New People’s Army on March 19, 2020 and executed in San Miguel town, Surigao del Sur province.
Murder is a non-bailable offense, while the multiple attempted murder case carries a bail of P120,000, Viñas said.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, described the charges against Tejero as the latest in a spate of attacks targeting Karapatan and human rights defenders.
“Renalyn Tejero (has been) a young, brave and dedicated human rights worker — and for her work, she has faced various threats and red-tagging,” Palabay said in a statement sent to Inquirer.
“She is not a criminal nor a terrorist; and there is no question that these charges against her are fabricated and are meant to threaten and silence her,” she added.
Tejero, a Manobo lumad, was a 2013 graduate of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), the lumad school whose executive director, along with lumad leaders in the area, were killed by a paramilitary group on Sept. 1, 2015. Later, the school was ordered closed by the government, its leaders tagged and vilified as members of NPA.
Palabay said Tejero was surprised to see her arrest warrant because she did not get any court subpoena.
“Renalyn was not served a subpoena for 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,” Palabay said. “Those who filed these cases simply have no intention to uphold her rights.”
The 25-year old human rights defender, who hailed from the village pf Diatagon, Lianga town, Surigao del Sur, was arrested at Lapasan village here. Viñas said Tejero was brought to the Caraga regional police office after her arrest.
But Palabay said Tejero’s family and friends did not know where she was taken hours after she was arrested until police later confirmed she was in the custody of the Police Regional Office (PRO), Palabay said.
Palabay said Tejero was later reported to be detained at the police regional office in Butuan City.
After she graduated from Alcadev. Tejero 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 chair of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) and was elected senator of the CSU student council.
Upon her graduation in 2018, she became a full-time human rights worker and later, a paralegal officer for Karapatan in Caraga.
But aside from being the spokesperson of the SCMP and the Promotion of Church People’s Response in Caraga, Tejero had been tagged by police as secretary general of the underground youth group Kabataan Makabayan (KM) in the region.
Police also claimed that Tejero, known for the nicknames “Tiray” and “Lyn,” had been an official of the Regional United Front of the Regional White Area Committee of Communist Party of the Philippines.
Tumulak said Tejero was one of the “primary suspects” in the killing of Ybañez and Astudillo in Surigao del Sur on March 19, 2020. He also cited intelligence report saying Tejero was a full-time member of the sub-regional Sentro De Grabidad Southland of NPA’s Northeastern Mindanao Regional Command.
But both police and the military in the region have yet to confirm if Tejero was indeed a member of NPA.
“We still have to check if she is an official of the NPA,” said Maj. Rodulfo Cordero Jr., spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division, in a separate interview on Monday (March 22).
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