The narrative of the Sicogon farmers is one that spans more than an entire decade. The beautiful island of Sicogon in the Municipality of Carles in Iloilo was eyed for its tourism potential as early as the 1980’s and the Sicogon Development Corporation (SIDECO) quickly set its sights on the 809 hectare property. However, an ocular survey conducted by the DAR revealed that 334 has. of the property is agricultural land and should therefore be distributed to the farmers pursuant to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Every step of the way, SIDECO has blocked moves to distribute the land under CARP, including the filing of one case after another against the agrarian reform petitioners.
In June 2008 last year, after Congress passed its first Joint Resolution, a Judge in Barotac Nuevo handling the injunction case filed by Sicogon against the DAR to prevent acquisition decided to archive the case on the curious ground that there is no reason to discuss the matter because CARP had expired.
Not content perhaps with how it has managed to skillfully maneuver the legal system to affirm its interests, SIDECO then rounded up all the villagers towards the end of 2008, when CARP was in limbo and there was no clear indication of whether or not a law would be passed. Ignoring the most basic concepts of law and human rights, it declared a “Huwes de Kutsiyo” and threatened physical harm and even death on those who dared go against the proposed Sicogon Island Resort Complex of SIDECO. This resulted in an an orgy of violence, including the destruction of a training center, the razing to the ground of a shanty of a farmer-beneficiary, the demolition of the house of farmer-leader Amelia de la Cruz. Right after the declaration of “Huwes de Kutsiyo”, the remains of Thelma Padios, a farmer beneficiary from Sicogon, was discovered with multiple stab wounds and burns on her face and body, and her private parts desecrated
Shaken but with heads unbowed, one hundred peasant families voluntarily evacuated the island to seek refuge and protection from the government and the Catholic Church. Early this month, 312 farmers launched their “Exodus for Land, Life and Dignity” to condemn the oppressions they have suffered in the hands of SIDECO.
This is their story.