Renalyn Tejero, student leader turned human rights worker

Renalyn Tejero, paralegal of Karapatan-Caraga (Photo courtesy of Tinay Palabay)

“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.”


MANILA – The police tagged Renalyn Tejero as one of the “top most wanted New People’s Army (NPA) members in Caraga region.

Human rights group Karapatan belied this, saying that the 25-year-old human rights worker arrested last weekend in barangay Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City is far from being a criminal. Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay described her as a young, brave and dedicated human rights worker who has been red-tagged many times because of her work.

Tejero is Karapatan’s paralegal staff in Caraga region. She is charged with murder and attempted multiple murder over the killing of alleged former NPA members Zaldy Acidillo Ybañez and Datu Bernandino Astudillo, in sitio Inadan, barangay Magroyong, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur on March 19, 2020.

Palabay asserted that Tejero is not terrorist. “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,” Palabay said in a statement.

From student leader to human rights worker

Tejero is a Lumad-Manobo who graduated from the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) in 2013.

After successfully passing the Department of Education’s placement exam, Tejero took a bachelor’s degree in Sociology at the Caraga State University (CSU) as a full scholar of the Enfants du Mekong Foundation.

She became the chairperson of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines – CSU Chapter. She was also elected as senator of the CSU student council.

“Renalyn started as an advocate for the rights of Lumad youth and also became a student leader. This administration is clearly afraid of the Lumad youth who speak the truth and resist tyranny,” Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat said in a statement.

After she graduated in 2018, Tejero became a full-time human rights worker.

As a human rights worker, Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT) described Tejero as someone who has “shown selflessness and dedication to her chosen vocation, reflected in her strong determination to assist the victims of human rights violations in their region.”

The group said that Tejero was one of the people who readily assisted ASCENT’s staff Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza when they were brought to the Butuan City Jail last June 2018 due to trumped-up charges.

She also visited them in jail from time to time and accompanied the lawyers of Quilloy and Espinoza whenever there would be hearings held in Manila.

“Even with the knowledge that her work might endanger her life, Renalyn persisted in helping victims of human rights abuse. And now, she herself has been victimized by state forces and is facing trumped-up charges and red-tagging,” the group said.

Palabay said Renalyn “is a joy to work with.”

“She has always been prompt in answering communications, always on her toes when it comes to pertinent facts and information needed on cases of human rights violations. Younger ones like her are a breath of fresh air among their more senior colleagues among human rights workers in Karapatan,” said Palabay.

No due process

Palabay decried how Tejero’s right to due process was violated. She did not receive any summon from the court about the charges filed against her.

“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,” Palabay said.

A report from the said that Tejero was surprised to see her arrest warrant during the 5:00 a.m. police operations on March19.

Before her arrest, Tejero was among the activists red-tagged by a group called Movement Against Terrorism (MAT) – Surigao chapter. Her picture was included in a tarpaulin with names, and organizations of 32 known peace and human rights advocates, indigenous rights defenders, church leaders, teachers, unionists, community health and development workers, peasant organizers, and student activists. Karapatan-Caraga said the tarpaulin was mounted in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.

“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,” Palabay said.

Palabay said that just two weeks ago, another Karapatan paralegal, Nimfa Lanzanas, was arrested during the Bloody Sunday police raids in Southern Tagalog.

Knowing the dangers that come with her work, Palabay said Tejero once asked her to use cute photos of her if something happens to her. Palabay replied by saying that hopefully, they do not have to use her cute photos. (

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