Solon files resolution honoring legacy of Toots Ople

By Jose Cielito Reganit

August 23, 2023, 3:22 pm Updated on August 23, 2023, 7:16 pm

<p>Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Maria Susana ‘Toots” V. Ople<em> (Photo courtesy of DMW)</em></p>

Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Maria Susana ‘Toots” V. Ople (Photo courtesy of DMW)

MANILA – OFW Party-list Rep. Marissa “Del Mar” Magsino on Wednesday filed a resolution expressing the profound sympathy of the House of Representatives on the death of Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Maria Susana “Toots” V. Ople, and honor the legacy of the service she has left behind.

In House Resolution (HR) 1215, Magsino noted that the late Toots Ople, who passed away on August 22, was, in her lifetime, a social activist who tirelessly fought for the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers, as well as supported the abolition of contractualization and called for better employment opportunities for the marginalized sectors of society at the local labor front.

To further cement her advocacy, Ople founded the Blas Ople Policy Center (BOPC) – in honor of her late father, former Labor Minister and Senator Blas Ople – which assists distressed OFWs in various parts of the world, and co-anchored the popular daily radio shows Bantay OFW and Global Pinoy.

In 2004, she was appointed as Undersecretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and in 2022, was appointed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. as the first Secretary of the newly-created DMW.

HR 1215 said Ople’s untimely demise is a great loss to the Filipino people and to the thousands of lives she touched in her long and illustrious career as an advocate of social justice, as a dedicated public servant, and as a champion of Filipino migrant workers.

“A grateful nation bids her farewell with a heavy heart, but with the resolve to celebrate her life of service and with the enlightened belief that her legacy will live on to guide the future generation of public servants and advocates for the cause of the working man and the common masses and for the plight of our OFWs,” the resolution read.

In filing the resolution, Magsino said she had known Toots Ople even before their respective stints in public service and holds her in high esteem because of her full commitment to service, and integrity in leading her organization, especially when she became secretary of DMW.

“In the year that she was at the helm of DMW, she has accomplished a lot of innovations and redirected our policies on labor migration toward what our OFWs truly need. Walang sinayang na oras si Sec. Toots at kanyang sinagad ang pagkakataong magsilbi sa bayan (Sec. Toots wasted no time and maximized her opportunity to serve the country). This is a testament to her heart of service and dedication to help change the lives of her countrymen,” she said in a statement.

“Kaya’t ang pagpanaw ni Sec. Toots ay mag-iiwan ng malalim na sugat, hindi lamang isang haligi sa ating adbokasiya ang nawala, isang hinahangaang kaibigan at lider din (That’s why her passing will leave a deep wound; not only did we lose a pillar of our advocacy, but also an admired friend and leader).”

A great loss to DMW

Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday approved a resolution expressing their profound sorrow on the passing of Ople.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said at least 10 resolutions were filed by different senators, showing their sympathy to the first head of the DMW.

Zubiri said Ople was a remarkable public servant who showed true leadership is not about power and authority but about kindness and compassion.

“She was soft-spoken but self-assured; unassuming but accomplished,” he said. “It is a great loss to the department to have been under her care for only a short time, but even in this short time, she has left an indelible mark, and her legacy will continue to shape the DMW in the years to come.”

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said even if Ople was not occupying government positions, she pushed for the elimination of human trafficking and illegal recruitment through her non-governmental organization, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute.

“Through her leadership, DMW was able to accomplish significant milestones – the establishment of the One Repatriation Command Center, digitalization and national reintegration programs, bilateral labor agreements, and anti-illegal recruitment and trafficking-in persons campaign,” Villanueva said.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada in his Senate Resolution 749, said the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, which helps OFW victims of exploitation, abuse, discrimination, and human trafficking, is a big help in the universal fight against these crimes.

“No less than the United States Government recognized her unwavering and persistent efforts by awarding her the 2013 global trafficking-in persons (TIP) hero award, making her the only Asian recipient that year,” Estrada said. (With reports from Leonel Abasola/PNA)