Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday expressed “profound sorrow” on the demise of Migrant Workers Secretary Maria Susana “Toots” Vasquez Ople, honoring his close friend as a life-long champion of the rights of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
In a Facebook post, Cayetano’s office said Ople’s life was “dedicated to improving the welfare and protecting the rights of our OFWs, and her passing is a great loss to our nation.”
“As partners in the fight for OFW rights — long before she even joined government — she fearlessly fought against labor exploitation and human trafficking. Her work transcended borders and made a profound impact on the lives of countless OFWs and their families,” the post added.
Cayetano also relayed his condolences through Senate Resolution No. 755 which he filed on August 23, 2023, a day after Ople passed away at the age of 61.
“Despite suffering from an illness, she [Ople] did not hesitate to heed the call of public service, putting fellow Filipinos before herself – the true embodiment of kapwa bago sarili,” he said.
He also shared Ople’s roles in various official capacities for more than 16 years.
“Secretary Ople served the Filipino people as Undersecretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, Head of Presidential Speechwriting Group at the Office of the President, and Chief of Staff to then-Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary and Senator Blas F. Ople,” he said.
“Reflecting her passion and commitment to the cause of OFWs, she founded and served as President of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization advocating for migrant workers’ rights and welfare, for 18 years,” he added.
Cayetano likewise recounted the many hats Ople wore as a media practitioner, columnist to media entities, and as an anti-human trafficking advocate. “She [Ople] was the first Filipino to have been appointed to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund to Assist Victims of Human Trafficking’s Board of Trustees,” he said.
Cayetano said because of her work ethic and compassion, Ople was conferred by the United States government with the “Global Trafficking in Persons Hero Award for 2013” for her persistent and unyielding effort to curb human trafficking. A Senate Resolution also recognized her efforts against human trafficking.
In Ople’s crucial role as the first-ever Migrant Workers Department Secretary, Cayetano said she was credited for rekindling the friendship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) when the Philippines then banned the deployment of Filipino workers there.
“Secretary Ople was a dedicated public servant who tirelessly championed for the welfare of laborers, made a career in protecting and promoting the rights of OFWs, and fearlessly fought against human trafficking,” he said.
Mourning her demise, Cayetano said Ople’s unwavering dedication and commitment won the trust and love of fellow public servants, countless laborers, and multitudes of OFWs and their families.
“As we bid farewell, we honor Secretary Ople’s unwavering dedication and commitment to our modern-day heroes. Her legacy will inspire generations to come, reminding us of the importance of justice, compassion, and relentless service to our migrant workers,” the Facebook post said.
“Rest in peace, Secretary Toots, knowing that your work lives on in the hearts and actions of those you inspired,” it added.