Paris-Geneva, March 21, 2022 – On the first anniversary of Renalyn Tejero’s arbitrary detention, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH) calls for her immediate and unconditional release and urges the authorities to put an immediate end to all acts of harassment against all human rights defenders in the Philippines.
One year ago, on March 21, 2021, woman human rights defender Renalyn Tejero was arbitrarily arrested by officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army (PA) in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental Province. Upon her detention, an arrest warrant issued by a local court was cited. However, no subpoena was served to the woman human rights defender regarding the charges she faced, and her request to call her family and lawyer was denied. Ms. Tejero’s fate and whereabouts remained unknown for more than six hours, until the police confirmed she was being detained in the headquarters of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 13, at Camp Colonel Rafael Rodriguez, in Butuan City, Agusan Del Norte Province. She was subsequently falsely accused and charged with “attempted murder” and “murder”. According to local reports, all the charges were later dismissed. Yet, Renalyn Tejero has still not been released.
Prior to her arrest, Renalyn Tejero had been a victim of red-tagging, a stigmatisation practice used by the authorities to target as “terrorists” and/or “communists” any individuals or groups perceived to be critical of the government. Since November 2020, Renalyn Tejero appeared on Facebook posts and leaflets in the Caraga Administrative Region that labelled her as a “communist” and a “terrorist” and linked her to the armed opposition group New People’s Army (NPA).
Far from being a terrorist, Renalyn Tejero is a paralegal officer of Karapatan, an OMCT SOS-Torture network member and alliance of individuals, groups, and organisations that has been promoting and protecting human rights in the Philippines since 1995, particularly through advocacy actions, education, capacity and network building and research. In retaliation for their human rights activities, Karapatan members have faced unfounded criminal prosecutions, arbitrary detentions, acts of stigmatisation and intimidation, and extrajudicial killings.
The Observatory recalls that since President Duterte took power in June 2016, human rights defenders have faced relentless vilification and red-tagging with the aim to discredit their peaceful work and to silence all critical voices, thus creating a climate in which attacks against them are acceptable and legitimised.
The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention of Renalyn Tejero and urges the Philippine authorities to guarantee in all circumstances her physical integrity and psychological well-being, and to immediately and unconditionally release her. Furthermore, the Observatory calls on the authorities to provide Renalyn Tejero with full and effective reparation for her lengthy arbitrary detention.
Finally, the Observatory reiterates its utmost concern over the violence, including killings and physical attacks, against human rights defenders in the Philippines, and calls upon the authorities to adopt effective measures to ensure their protection.