Last Thursday, 24 August 2023, the City Council of Manila unanimously passed a resolution condoling the family of the late Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople, who passed away Tuesday, 22 August, at the age of 61.
Ople had been an active advocate of migrant workers’ welfare long before being appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. as the Department’s first ever Secretary. She was labor undersecretary from 2004 to 2009, and was the founder of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a non-profit organization recognized by the Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for its promotion of migrant workers’ rights.
The Center is named after her late father, former Senate President Blas F. Ople, widely regarded as the father of Filipino overseas employment and of the Philippine Labor Code.
Toots Ople was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking, the first Filipino to hold the post, apart from serving as national coordinator on women workers’ education for the International Labor Organization.
The U.S. Department of State once cited her as one of the “Heroes Acting to End Modern Slavery”, recognizing her efforts to protect Filipino overseas workers and fight human trafficking.
“Malaki syang kawalan para sa ating lahat, lalo na para sa mga overseas Filipino workers na nangangailangan ng tulong (Her passing is a big loss for all of us, especially for overseas Filipino workers in need of help)”, lamented First District Councilor Niño dela Cruz, principal author of the resolution. “Nakakalungkot lang na maraming nangyaring mga pang-aabuso sa ating mga kababayan at nawalan tayo ng tagapangtanggol (It is sad that even as many abuses are committed against our countrymen, we have lost a defender.)”, he added.