By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — “Remove your middle name.”
This is what the authorities of Italy’s Ministry of Interior or the Ministero dell’Interno, have been telling Filipinos in Italy since the agency laid down its Circular No. 29 on October 7, 2010. The labor ministry has since been ordering ordering Filipinos living and working in Italy to “drop their middle names’ in official documents to avoid confusion in the use of middle names.”
Italians do not have middle names.
Migrante Europe and the Migrante chapter in Italy are opposing the circular which, in contrast, has been endorsed by the Philippine embassy in Italy.
In a statement, Migrante Europe said Filipinos are against the new rule and have been actively campaigning for its repeal on just grounds.
“The measure was implemented without consultation with the Filipino community; it has triggered more confusion among Filipinos. The Italian government is unjustly requiring all Filipinos to change their official documents such as passports and other identification cards at their own expense,” it said.
Despite appeals and requests from Filipinos, principally in Rome, to dialogue with the Ministry of Interior and to pursue diplomatic representation to repeal the measure, the Philippine Embassy thru Ambassador Romeo Manalo has reportedly been ignoring the call of his compatriots against the circular.
Earlier last year, Filipino migrants in Italy formed ” Task Force Circular No. 29,” also called Alliance of Filipino Migrants in Italy. The group’s members have reportedly been active on Facebook and other social networking sites, airing their concerns regarding the policy.
The Philippine embassy for its part has already release bulletins containing information on the new system of registration for Filipinos in Italy. The embassy first released Info Bulletin No. 8-2011 on March 18, 2011 to explain the stand of the embassy on the matter.
“The Embassy supports the issuance and continued implementation of the Circulars as it firmly believes that the new uniform system on registering Filipinos in Italy is for the better good of all our kababayans in ltaly”, stated the bulletin.
According to reports, the said circular serves as the guidelines for all documents in the various Italian agencies. Filipinos who have been residents for several years will also be affected by the policy change. In the meantime, Filipinos with permesso di soggiorno or permits to stay will not have to have their middle names removed from their documents. Once they renew said documents, their middle names will not longer be included. To finalize the name change, Filipinos will need to inform the Anagrafe or the Register Office and oversee the alterations in the personal data and ensure that it consistent in all documents and across agencies.
Should Filipinos encounter problems with the process, the Philippine embassy has said that they can can request for a certification to prove their identities. In turn, the embassy will inform the Bureau of Immigration regarding the name change and prevent problems concerning the OFWs’ arrival and exit from the Philippines.
Based on latest data, some 130,000 Filipinos are currently living and working in Italy.
Philippine embassy officials have admitted that the implementation of the new uniform system may cause initial confusion, but it insisted that the embassy was closely coordinating with Italian authorities ” to ensure the clear, uniform and smooth implementation of the Circulars throughout Italy”, they said.
In reports, Consul General Danilo Ibayan was quoted as saying that Circular No. 29 will provide a solution to the problem Filipinos experience when introducing themselves via legal documents. He said Italian authorities get confused about the names of Filipinos because of the additional middle names besides the surnames, and this causes problems with registration and legal document processing.
For its part, Migrante International in the Philippines said it is completely behind the campaign of Filipinos in Italy against Circular N0. 29. It said that forcing Filipinos to remove their middle names from official records smacks of discrimination and is disrespectful of Filipino culture.
“Through the years, Italy has become a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nation and this entails the Italian government’s recognition and respect of other cultures. On the other hand, the Philippine government’s acceptance and enforcement of the ‘middle name rule’ also speaks volumes of its one-sided and subservient foreign relations, as well as its insensitivity to the demands and civil liberties of Filipinos in Italy,” said Migrante chairman Garry Martinez.
In the meantime, Migrante Europe has also been calling on the Philippine government through its diplomatic post in Italy to to repeal the law making membership in the PAG-IBIG Fund mandatory; to lower passport fees; and to lobby the Italian government to allow retired Filipino migrants to be able to enjoy their pension in the Philippines.
The Philippine embassy in Italy charges 50 euros or $63.00 for passport renewals.
“The demands of Filipino migrants are just and reasonable in the context of the financial and economic crisis affecting migrant-receiving countries in Europe. This crisis has resulted to less working hours, less pay, if not outright job loss for many migrant workers. Families of migrant Filipinos in Italy suffer the consequences of this crisis,” the group said.
According to the organization,the Philippine government has the main responsibility to defend the welfare of Filipinos overseas.