MANILA, Philippines – After years of advocating for the rights of overseas Filipino workers, Susan Ople has again set her eyes on the Senate.
Ople, who first ran for senator in 2010, is president of the Blas Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a non-governmental organization that handles labor and migration concerns. It was founded in honor of her late father, Blas Ople, a former Senate president, foreign affairs secretary, and labor minister.
Ople is no stranger to the Senate, having served as her father’s chief of staff. She was also the chief of staff of two other senators – Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and the late Ernesto Herrera.
Ople, a former labor undersecretary, was among the critics of House Bill 6195 which sought the imposition of a $50-contribution from OFWs, their employment agencies, or their employers to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Emergency Repatriation Fund.
She is part of a coalition of OFW groups that hauled the Manila International Airport Authority to court for “relentless violation” of the Migrant Workers Act due to its decision to integrated terminal fees in plane tickets bought online. (READ: Ople hits MIAA: Why hassle OFWs over terminal fee refund system?)
OFWs are exempted by law from paying terminal fees or the International Passenger Service Charge (IPSC) but need to line up at airports to be reimbursed.
As part of Rappler #PHVote’s “The Leader I Want” series, we look at Ople’s stand on key issues that the next batch of senators will have to address.
Tell us in the comments section below or tweet using #TheLeaderIWant why or why not Susan Ople should be elected into the Senate.
In line with her OFW advocacy, Ople has said she wants to improve working conditions in the Philippines so that Filipinos are not forced to seek employment abroad.
In a forum at the Ateneo de Manila University, Ople maintained that minimum wage is necessary to protect workers from market forces. She is also against contractualization.
“How can the government claim moral ascendancy if within public offices there are also job-order employees and contractual workers? Security of tenure is very important,” she also said in the forum, according to a Guidon report. (READ: Women senatorial bets vow to prioritize labor, human rights)
Ople also is seeking the passage of an anti-age discrimination law so that Filipinos will not be forced to find work abroad when local employers refuse to hire them due to their age. The House and Senate versions of the Anti-Age Discrimination in Employment Act of House Bill 6418 have been approved on second reading in both houses of Congress.
Ople has said she hopes for “common ground” to pave the way for a Social Security Service pension hike that President Benigno Aquino III had vetoed. (READ: Aquino defends veto on SSS pension hike)
As a longtime advocate of OFWs, Ople’s plans center around policies that aim to improve OFW welfare.
She intends to create specialized government offices and bodies specifically designed to cater to OFW needs. Among them are the following:
- Department of Migration and Development
- Department of Overseas Filipino Workers
- Department of Maritime Affairs
- A special government unit to handle death penalty and blood money cases involving OFWs
- A Senate subcommittee on OFW affairs
She is also pushing for the modernization of the OWWA, the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, and the various Assistance-to-Nationals Units of Philippine embassies and consulates.
Ople advocates is the creation of a Victim’s Assistance Program for human trafficking survivors.
In terms of existing policies, she is pushing for a review of the 1990 Bureau of Customs Memorandum on OFW goods or Memorandum Circular No. 7990 (READ: ‘Don’t abuse balikbayan box privileges’ – Customs)
According to a Tempo report, Ople said the Philippines needs to set a roadmap and targets on OFW deployment. “In Indonesia, they developed a 2017 roadmap to cut the number of women that they’ve been deploying overseas as domestic workers, meaning, that is included as an economic target. [In the Philippines] we just send them out, and don’t have such target,” the report quoted her as saying.
In the same article, she also said she intends to prioritize development in Mindanao.
Ople also seems to favor the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law based on an article she wrote for Arab News in 2013, entitled, “MIndanao peace pact is breath of fresh air.
In that report, she said, “For overseas Filipino workers, sustainable peace in Mindanao means the opening of doors to new employment opportunities expected to arise from tourism, industrial investments, real estate development, and agricultural businesses.” – Rappler.com
Susan Ople is among the senatorial candidates who will participate in Rappler’s #TheLeaderIWant Senatorial Debates at the Far Eastern University on Friday, April 22, from 3 pm to 5:30 pm.
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