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Monday, January 25, 2010

The One Candidate I Support: Susan Ople

Susan’s Story: A Life Dedicated to Helping OFWs


At 47 years old, Susan “Toots” Ople has done more with her life than some people could imagine.

• She served in the Senate in 1987 as a staff of Senator Ernesto Herrera. Her first job was as a researcher before she was promoted to media relations officer, mainly because of her excellent writing and networking skills.

• In 1989, the Citizens’ DrugWatch Foundation was created with Herrera as president and Susan as executive director. The Foundation raised funds for the establishment of rehab facilities in Manila and other parts of the country. It also created awareness about the insidious effects of a drug known in the streets as “shabu”. Her work in the Citizens’ DrugWatch led her to author her first book entitled, “Hugs, Not Drugs.”

• In 1992, her father, Blas F. Ople of Hagonoy, Bulacan was elected Senator.

• From 1992 until 1998, Susan worked diligently beside and for her father, helping him write his speeches, organizing his press conferences, and pursuing his projects that even then included helping overseas Filipino workers.

• From 1998 to 1999, Ople’s youngest daughter was accepted and studied at the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University, Cambridge, Boston in Massachusetts. She wrote for the school’s magazine, was tapped to write case studies by her professors, cross-enrolled in a creative writing course at Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT) and spearheaded a petition to prod the school to level the playing field for international students. Susan Ople graduated with a master’s degree in Public Administration and was awarded the Josephine Vernon Award for Excellence in Communications.

• Upon her return from the United States, her father once again sought her help and designated her as chief-of-staff.

• Susan became a familiar face to media, as her father’s chief writer and media liaison officer. Soon enough, she too found herself writing a column for the now defunct Philippine Post. Thereafter, she was asked to write for Manila Chronicle and Manila Times.

• All in all, Susan spent 16 years in the Senate.

• When her father was designated Foreign Affairs Secretary, he brought Susan with him again as chief of staff. It was during her stint at the DFA that Susan became deeply involved in human trafficking and OFW cases. She was also publisher of the now-defunct “Diplomatic Post” which featured the work of career foreign service officers around the world.

• Her father died with his proverbial boots on, while onboard a plane from Tokyo, Japan to Bahrain to prepare for the President’s state visit. Susan was waiting for him in Bahrain. He died mid-air, with the plane making an emergency landing in Taiwan. By then it was too late. He came home a hero, and was buried as such leaving behind an unparalleled legacy as a statesman, father of overseas employment, and father of the Philippine labor code.

• In 2004, Susan Ople was designated by the President as Undersecretary of Labor and Employment.

• It was during her time that the DoLE established a partnership with Microsoft for a computer literacy program for OFWs called, “Tulay”. Since 2004 until today, more than 14,000 Tulay scholars have crossed the digital divide as computer literate OFWs and workers. The oldest Tulay graduate is Buhay Tan, an 80-year old mother of five OFWs. She now uses Skype, Facebook, and e-mail to communicate with her children and grandchildren.

• Last year, thanks to a grant bestowed by Microsoft, Susan through the Blas F. Ople Center, was able to put up 10 new Tulay facilities in Koronadal City, Tacloban City, Tuguegarao City, Baguio City, San Fernando in Pampanga, Calamba City, Intramuros in Manila, Butuan City, Davao City and as well as in Bataan while adding 10 new computers to the Tulay Center in Hong Kong and putting up a new Tulay facility in Taipei.

• Cognizant of her writing skills, the President requested her transfer from DoLE to the Office of Communications Director where Susan headed the presidential speechwriting group. When the OCD was abolished, Susan was taken in by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as his Undersecretary. She respectfully tendered her resignation to ES Ermita on January 2006 because she was not in favor of a hasty Charter change, the kind that the administration was pushing.

• After her lengthy stint in government, Susan decided to continue her advocacy work in helping OFWs through the non-government organization that she founded in 2004, after her father’s death, known as the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. She thought of offering short courses such as "Foreign Affairs on Saturdays", "On Writing Well" and "History for Grown-ups" to enable adult learners to expand their competencies while enjoying themselves.

• She also worked as consultant and chief of staff to Senator Mar Roxas. She resigned in 2008 to focus full-time on the Tulay Program and the work of the Ople Center.

• In between all of these, Susan has written two books, numerous columns and articles, served as a bridge between the DFA/OP and families of hostage victims, Robert Tarongoy who was kidnapped in Iraq, and Angelito Nayan, who was held hostage in Afghanistan. She also served as a consultant to the International Labor Organization on women workers’ training on gender issues and labor rights.
• Susan was instrumental in the rescue of 17 women trafficked to Syria, 137 bus drivers illegally deployed to Dubai, and countless other victims exploited in Malaysia and the Middle East. With the help of the Ople Center, the bus drivers were able to file complaints against their recruitment agencies which led to the cancellation of 7 licenses and the suspension of five others. The Ople Center also spearheaded the filing of the very first human trafficking case against a Singaporean based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia who has victimized over a hundred Filipino women. The second hearing on this case will be on December 28, 2009. Meanwhile, the Ople Center has stepped up its advocacy against the use of Filipino women as drug mules by international drug rings. She has been able to help a Filipino woman recruited by a Nigerian syndicate to Lima, Peru by providing her with temporary shelter and assistance. As of today, the members of the syndicate have been arrested by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Administration (PDEA), with the help of the Filipino victim and the Ople Center.

• Aside from inheriting her father’s love for the OFWs and labor, Susan also took over her father’s column in Panorama Magazine and Tempo. She is also the host of a weekly radio program called, “Global Pinoy”, on DWIZ 880 AM, every Saturday, from 5.30 to 6.30 pm.

• Susan believes her biggest accomplishment to date is that of raising 24-year old Susanne Laurie Ople Osorio also known as Estelle. Estelle is a high school English teacher at Reedley International School in Pasig City and is a well-known debater and adjudicator.

• Clearly, the Ople legacy lives on, in his daughter, Toots.



That's me sharing OFW stories to Susan "Toots' Ople, running for Senator as guest candidate of the Nacionalista Party. I am asking all my friends, fellow bloggers, and OFW's around the world to support this wonderful, kind, and intelligent mother, and OFW advocate.


©2010 THOUGHTSKOTO