The expression “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” seems like to be no longer an expression to demonstrate civility, good manners and flexibility as admonished by the early Christian leaders to whom the adage is attributed.
The expression is now the essence of a rule that has been applied to Filipino migrants in (where else?) Italy.
Not that there is something wrong with observing civility and good manners, but the adage’s application borders on ignoring cultural sensitivity and Filipino traditions, and it is costing money to those who need to follow the rule.
Those are the main arguments of Alyansa ng Pilipino sa Italya members against Circular No. 29 issued last October 7, 2010 by the Italian government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, summarised Alyansa president Junn Felix Mendoza Landicho in his messages to us.
The circular ordains this rule: Because Italians do not have middle names, therefore Filipino migrants in Italy should not have middle names too.
What makes this interesting is that our kababayans in Italy do not see the Italian government as their “enemy” for the imposed rule of removing middle names in documents.
The focus of their campaign is the Philippine government, ie, Philippine Embassy in Italy.
According to Mr Landicho, the circular was passed by the Italian foreign affairs ministy at the instigation of the Philippine Embassy in Italy.
In addition to Alyansa, Migrante International and its Italian chapter, are also campaigning against the circular, mostly in social networking sites. Records of Alyansa’s videotaped dialogue with Philippine Embassy officials, letter to the Philippine Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs, and an open letter to Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay who visited Rome last June are available on the Facebook networking site.
Mr Landicho also confirmed to us that the circular applies only to Filipino Italians. Other migrants in Italy who are using longer and multiple names are not affected.
“Sa Pilipino lamang kaya nga po nakakahiya kasi isolated, yung ibang lahi hindi sakop”, said Mr Landicho. (Only Filipinos, that is why it is a shame, other nationalities are not covered).
If subject circular applies only to Filipinos, our layman’s view ~ not being a lawyer ~ is that the circular is a form of “selective legislation” which, based on other countries’ legal practices, may be discriminatory.
Unfortunately, Alyansa and other community groups cannot shout “foul” to the Italian ministry because then Ambassador to Italy Romeo Manalo wrote a “note verbale” on the circular. A “note verbale”, to our understanding, is “a diplomatic note that is more formal than an aide-mÃ©moire and less formal than a note, is drafted in the third person, and is never signed”.
The “note verbale” has effectively given support to the Italian ministry’s circular, said Mr Landicho adding that community members were not consulted before the circular was passed, or even before the Embassy’s endorsement was issued.
“Hindi lamang dapat manatili sa SALITA kundi patunayan sa GAWA ang pampapalubag-loob na katagang ang MIGRANTE ang ‘TUNAY NA BAYANI’ ng ating bansa,” said Mr Landicho. (“It should not only be in words but in actions that the sobriquet be proven that migrants are the true heroes of our nation.”)
“Noong nagdaang taon $21.3 bilyon na naipasok ng mga migrante sa kaban ng yaman ng bansa at sa 1.4 milyong Pilipino ang sapilitang nangibang bayan para mabuhay ng marangal.” (Last year, migrants remitted $21.3 billion to the country’s treasury and 1.4 million Filipinos were forced to go overseas to have a decent life.”)
The groups want the Department of Foreign Affairs to rescind the “note verbale” written by the Philippine Embassy in Italy on the circular. The only way that the Italian ministry will pull out the circular is for the DFA to pull out the “note verbale”, said Mr Landicho.
Based on latest statistics, there are about 131,000 Filipinos in Italy who are working as temporary or permanent workers. Filipino Italians form the fourth-largest migrant community in Italy, after the Romanian, Albanian and North African communities.
It is almost two years now since Circular No. 29 was issued. “But we will not stop fighting,” said Mr Landicho.
Alyansa has also recently launched an online petition campaigning for signatories to repeal the circular. Their goal is 1 million “signatories”.
To support the campaign of Filipinos in Italy against Circular No. 29, click here.