MANILA – The House of Representatives on Tuesday adopted a resolution extending its profound condolences to the family of the late Secretary Maria Susana “Toots” V. Ople of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).
The House members adopted via voice vote House Resolution (HR) 1226, a consolidation with six other related resolutions.
The resolution pays tribute to the life and enduring contributions of Ople, president and founder of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Center, a non-profit organization devoted to advocating for the rights and well-being of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
The resolution was introduced by Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales, Majority Leader Jose “Mannix” Dalipe, Minority Leader Marcelino Libanan, Senior Deputy Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte (1st District) Rep. Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” A. Marcos, and Tingog Party-list Reps. Yedda Marie K. Romualdez and Jude Acidre.
Ople passed away on Aug. 22 at the age of 61. She is survived by her daughter, Susanne Laurie.
Romualdez praised Ople as "a staunch advocate of fair and ethical recruitment, a leading voice in recognizing the dignity of labor no matter how small the task, and a fierce enemy of illegal recruitment and human trafficking."
The lawmakers emphasized that Ople will forever be remembered for her "great passion, dedication, commitment, and contribution to the welfare and well-being of millions of OFWs and the entire Philippine labor industry."
Born on Feb. 9, 1962, Ople earned a degree in Communication Arts from the University of Santo Tomas in 1985 and a post-graduate degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government as an Edward Mason Fellow in 1999.
Ople dedicated her life to her advocacy for human and labor rights, especially for OFWs.
She held the position as the first Secretary of the DMW under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s administration, a position which further allowed her to carry forward the legacy of her father, the late Blas F. Ople, a former Senate President, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of Labor, and widely recognized as the Father of Overseas Employment in the Philippines and of the Philippine Labor Code.
Other positions she held in the government before becoming the DMW secretary include the following: chief of staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs from 2001 to 2003; communications consultant of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process from 2011 to 2012; consultant of the Office of the Senate President in 2016; and a consistent resource person for both chambers of Congress in crafting legislation to safeguard the rights of Filipino migrant workers.
Beyond her public service roles, Ople was unwavering in her commitment to serving OFWs. In 2004, she established the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, whose core mission was to foster collaborations with both private and public institutions to drive capacity-building efforts across all stakeholders.
The Ople Center aimed to maintain advancements in policies and practices that would bring tangible benefits to Filipino migrants and their families. This mission received critical support through grants from notable organizations like the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, Google, Microsoft, PLDT, San Miguel Corporation, among others.
As an unwavering advocate for worker's rights, Ople authored two books: "Hugs, Not Drugs – A Drug Abuse Prevention Manual" and "Paalis Ka Na Pala – A Guide for First-Time OFWs." She also contributed numerous advocacy articles to publications like the Manila Times, Arab News, Business Mirror, CNN Freedom Project, and Rappler, offering valuable guidance to millions of overseas Filipino workers facing personal challenges.
Her tireless commitment to championing human and labor rights earned her several accolades, including the Dangal ng Lipi Award from the Provincial Government of Bulacan in 2013, the Manuel L. Quezon Gawad Parangal Award from the Quezon City Government in 2014, the Bravo Award for Social Services from the Zonta Club of Makati in 2017, and the Anvil of Appreciation Award from the Public Relations Society of the Philippines in 2018.
Internationally, Ople's efforts on behalf of OFWs received recognition through awards and honors such as the Josephine Vernon Award for Excellence in Communications in 2009, becoming the first Filipino to receive the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Achievement Award in 2010, receiving the Trafficking in Persons Award from the US State Department in 2013, and being the first Filipino member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund to Assist Victims of Human Trafficking.
In honor of OFWs as the country’s modern-day heroes, Ople never ceased to extend help and fight for their rights, in whatever capacity, in exchange for their positive impact in the socio-economic conditions of the country. (PNA)