MANILA, December 9, 2004
(STAR) By Marichu Villanueva - President Arroyo accused the New People’s Army (NPA) yesterday of murdering innocent civilians under the guise of fighting for their ideology, and of being the worst violators of human rights.

Speaking at Malacañang to mark International Human Rights Day, Mrs. Arroyo said the NPA is truly a terrorist organization as what the United States and the European Union have been saying.

"On another plane, there should be a proper mechanism to secure and process complaints of human rights abuses against insurgents and terrorists," she said.

"Human rights propaganda leans heavily on our soldiers and policemen, when we all know that the worst violators belong to the New People’s Army.

"While the (NPA) extols human rights by words, they engage in illegal logging, cultivate marijuana, push drugs, burn buses, and murder civilians, and that is what we must also address when we are celebrating, commemorating human rights," the President said.

After hundreds of people died in landslides and floods in Aurora and Quezon following tropical depression "Winnie" and typhoon "Yoyong" last week, Mrs. Arroyo accused the NPA of engaging in illegal logging, which led to the denudation of the Sierra Madre mountain range that could have stopped rampaging waters.

Chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello III told The STAR in a telephone interview that they have yet to receive official word from the rebels as to when peace talks would be resumed.

"They have asked for a postponement, purportedly to give us a chance to clarify the NPA’s being included in the list of foreign terrorist groups," he said.

"We are just waiting for them to ask for the resumption of the peace talks."

It was the rebels who asked for a "recess" in the talks last August, Bello said.

Mrs. Arroyo had recalled the government peace panel from talks in Oslo, Norway after the NPA had stepped up attacks on military positions.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Arroyo said her administration would like to resolve "classic human rights cases" like those of victims of martial law.

"One of my priority legislative agenda is precisely to exact just compensation for human rights victims during the martial law years," she said.

"We cannot claim to be a just and compassionate society if we could not even indemnify those who suffered during the darkest days of our country’s history."

Earlier, Mrs. Arroyo had certified as urgent the passage of two administration bills seeking to grant a compensation package to martial law victims.

Senate Bill 1746, which is set for second reading, is sponsored by Senators Joker Arroyo, Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Sergio Osmeña III, who were key leaders of the anti-Marcos movement.

Its House version, Bill 1319, has been tabled for first reading.

When passed into law, the bills will amend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, which provides that ill-gotten wealth recovered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government be used to finance the government’s agrarian reform program.

Mrs. Arroyo had already set aside P10 billion from the $630 million Marcos Swiss account turned over to the government for the compensation of 10,000 human rights victims of martial law.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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