PRESIDENT FERDINAND Marcos, Jr. paid his last respects to the late migrant workers secretary and UST Artlet alumna Maria Susana “Toots” Ople today, saying she can never be replaced because of her dedication to helping overseas Filipino workers.
In his eulogy during the necrological rites for Ople on Aug. 28 at the Kalayaan Hall in Malacañang, a teary-eyed Marcos said the late secretary had a “rare quality” of fulfilling her duties out of passion and compassion.
“And if I do shed a tear, it is because it is such a sad day to know… a bit of knowledge to know that Toots will not be here anymore and what a big gap she will leave not only to our friends, not only to our family but to the millions of those who she took care of, who she loved, and who she worked for tirelessly and endlessly, and I speak endlessly because that is exactly what happened,” Marcos said.
“Of course we are thinking, what will happen to the work Toots left behind? Who will do it? At first, I said we need to replace her, we need to appoint a successor. But while I was thinking about it, I could not sleep. I was thinking, ‘Who will replace her?’ None. Toots cannot be replaced,” he added.
Marcos vowed to continue Ople’s legacy but lamented that the Filipino migrant workers have lost their “best champion.”
“I feel sorry for us, her friends, her family because we’ve lost a wonderful person, a wonderful friend. I feel sorry for the Filipinos who are living and working abroad because they have lost the best champion that they ever had…in the history of overseas workers for Filipinos,” he added.
Ople, a communication arts alumna of the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters, passed away on August 22 at the age of 61. Marcos appointed her as migrant workers secretary last year even if she was battling breast cancer, a move that demonstrated his great trust in her.
Marcos revealed that Ople was still performing her duties during her final days. According to him, he was hoping that a miracle would happen and that Ople would be cured of her illness.
“If anyone deserves the miracle, it was Toots for all the good that she did. So when I heard the news that Toots had died, I thought our prayers were not answered. There was no miracle. But in the following days, I realized I was wrong,” the Chief Executive said.
“There was a miracle. The miracle was Toots. The miracle was she lived and she became our friend and she was able to do the most important thing for herself and for other people. And perhaps we cannot see that anymore.”
Aside from providing assistance to needy migrant workers, Ople was known for leading several operations that rescued trafficked and exploited Filipinos in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In 2013, then US state secretary John Kerry granted Ople the Trafficking in Persons Hero award, which recognizes those who have made significant contributions to eliminating human trafficking. F – Katherine Chan