A Keynote to Migrante Europe – Second Congress San Martino Parish, Via Alfonso Lissi 11, 22110 Como, Italy, December 8, 2019

My dear esteemed members of Migrante Europe:

It is a great privilege to have been invited to a gathering, a congress of the brave Filipino migrants in this part of the globe – the Migrante Europe. Least did I expect that a self-exiled Mindanaon activist like me can become a keynote speaker in today’s historical event of your mass organization that champions the cause of the Filipino migrants.

Your theme, “Broaden and strengthen the ranks of the Filipino migrants and their families, actively defend the rights of the Filipino people against tyranny and advance the struggle for freedom, democracy and national sovereignty” clearly expresses your organization’s call and task for the beneficiary which are the vast majority of the Filipino Migrants, their families and the collective will and quest of the Filipino people.

As a church-man I cannot help but to begin my message with some religious and biblical underpinnings. Hence, May I start by saying that migrants in the Bible and religious history are called the diaspora or dispersed, scattered. Primarily, they are the Jews who were expelled from the land of Israel (the old and Biblical, not the Israel of today).

Historically, “The imperialist policy of neoliberal globalization since the 1970s created an upsurge of migration by implementing the system of labor contractualization and labor placement agencies in industrialized countries.  This system easily gave way to labor contracting through partners in source countries in the South such as the Philippines where the dictator Marcos promoted this as official policy of labor export to amass profits by its bureaucrat capitalist cronies. 

The question of cross-border refugees (due to political/manmade or natural causes) also means that the toiling masses who compose the majority sooner than later become migrant workers in the host country of refuge. Several years ago we have started to look the whole movement of migrants or compatriots not simply as migrant workers but as diaspora.

Migrants, migrant workers, and refugees of all kinds are all part of diaspora — the exodus or mass relocation of peoples due to societal or/and natural causes.  The individual who migrated automously is still part of a phenomenon of mass displacement.  Whether the displacement is apparently voluntary or involuntary through commercial recruiters (such as manning agencies, placement services and other private trafficking businesses and ‘official trafficking policies’).  Conflicts and natural calamities are sudden events that produce refugees in a mass scale.  But societal or/and natural conditions can also be slow-evolving, resulting in voluntary migration of individuals.  All of this result in a diaspora – displacement and the creation of a mass of peoples or communities of the displaced.

According to the government’s official record through the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) in 2016, reported by Michael Tan of Inquirer.net, there are about 866,000 Filipinos, or 8 percent of the total population of overseas Filipinos. About half of them are classified as permanent. Many are married to local residents and, needless to say, have “hyphenated” children—Filipino-British, Filipino-Italian, etc. That would mean more than 400,000 “Euro Pinoys,” if we count only the permanent residents.

The European countries with the largest numbers of Filipinos are Italy (271,946), the United Kingdom (218,126), Greece (61,716), France (48,018), Germany (47,214), Spain (42,804), the Netherlands (21,789), Switzerland (20,910), Cyprus (19,948) and Norway (18,088).

If my other source is correct, it says that there are around 80,000 Filipino migrants in Germany compared to the above CFO’s record that it is only 47,214, we have a difference of more than 50% of which when we play with numbers we can also double the CFO’s record to 1.6 million Filipino migrants in Europe. What a huge number of Filipino diaspora in the region!

Imperialism creates more conditions for diaspora through world wars, aggression/invasion, intense oppression and exploitation resulting in poverty and misery. Climate change as a result of monopoly capitalism further result in more calamities, and climate migrants. Neoliberal globalization slowly strangle economies and livelihoods and promote more individual labor migration.  Particular policies of contractualization and the promotion of labor/manning agencies can be construed as simply trafficking through legalized temporary contracts.  There are not at all very different from illegal trafficking through fraudulent methods of unregistered recruiters. 

By its definition (displaced collective community), diaspora is an adjunct to the homeland, and shares history, social and cultural characteristics.  This means compatriots identify with and share the responsibility to focus to the lot of the homeland and intuitively identify with the struggle for freedom and democracy.

In the Biblical perspective, we have these to find about migration and diaspora…

Exodus 12:49 “The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.” Galatians 3: 28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Deuteronomy 24: 14 “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.” Genesis 12:10 “Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe” (Abram in Egypt). Leviticus 24:22 “You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.” Leviticus 25: 35 “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” Psalm 146:9 “The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”

Interestingly, the said Biblical passages talk about God’s commands on how to treat the diaspora by people of the host countries, by the diaspora themselves to each other – to help and support each other. And how the Lord God gives hope and protects the diaspora, the foreigners including the fatherless and widows while they are away from home and that He will not allow the wicked to triumph against them. But of course we in the church always are not only hoping but are putting our faith into actions as James advised… Faith without work is dead.

Today, you are again coming together to unite and re-unite with each of the brave diaspora-Filipino and most of all to take counsel with each other, to assess your strengths and weaknesses in the implementation of your general plan of action (GPOA) that you have agreed in the last congress and to map out your program for the next years. A kind of program that would define your responses to the various situations and context of the diaspora here in Europe and the context back home where human rights and economic situations are worsening – killings of the poor people in the urban centers and the peasants and indigenous peoples in the countryside increased every day through the foolish and fake drug war and the anti-insurgency campaign of the tyrant and dictator president who is unfortunately and shamefully from my island Mindanao.

In the recent days, we witness how Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 or the Whole-of-Nation Approach has systematically weaponized the entire civilian bureaucracy for the regime’s counterinsurgency campaign that specifically targets the CPP-NPA-NDF, including what it identified and tagged as so-called ‘legal communists fronts’ – the progressive and militant organizations including the partylists like Gabriela Women’s Party, the Churches including the National Council of Churches (NCCP) which is 10th in the list and my church – the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) as 7th in the list and the funding institutions in Europe. The EO 70 and the subsequent formation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) led to a nationwide blood trail of state-sponsored human rights violations and abuses.

It is your challenge to complement our movement here with the struggle for liberation in our homeland.

To end my message, may I end by saying that your theme can be best achieved by faithfully, seriously and painstakingly do the arousing, organizing and mobilizing of the Filipino diaspora and connect this movement to a broad alliance of like-minded networks around the world for the emancipation of the Filipino people and the rest of the world’s working class and the peasantry. Of course you can start by being one with the Europe Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines – ENJPP.

Long live the brave Filipino diaspora!

Love live Migrante – Europe!

Long live the struggle for national liberation!

Workers of the world, unite!

The Right Revd Antonio Nercua Ablon, IFI

Interim Coordinator

Europe Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines

N.B. My readings include the writings of Prof. Antonio Tujan of IBON International

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