Ople, communication alumna and migrant workers chief, passes away

Maria Susana 'Toots' Ople. Art by Janssen Judd Romero/THE FLAME
Maria Susana ‘Toots’ Ople. Art by Janssen Judd Romero/THE FLAME

ARTLET ALUMNA and Migrant Workers Secretary Maria Susana “Toots” Ople passed away on Tuesday, Aug. 22.

She was 61.

Ople’s death was announced by the migrant workers department in a Facebook post.

“Secretary Toots peacefully joined our Creator at around 1PM today, August 22, 2023 surrounded by her family and loved ones,” the agency said.

The cause of her death was not disclosed, but in 2020, she revealed that she was battling breast cancer.

Ople graduated with a communication arts degree at the University of Santo Tomas in 1985. She finished her master’s degree in public administration at Harvard University in 1999.

The late secretary was a known champion of the rights of Filipino migrant workers.

In 2004, she served as undersecretary of the Department of Labor and Employment under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration. She was also the founder of Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a non-profit organization for labor and migration concerns. The center was named after his late father, who served as the labor secretary under the first Marcos administration.

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,

Ople ran for senator in 2010 and in 2016, but lost.

She was the first migrant workers secretary under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.

Marcos described Ople as “a friend” and a “special person with a deep compassion” for overseas Filipino workers.

“There cannot be a better example of the perfect mix of compassion and hard-nosed pragmatism than in Toots. She got many things done in her years of public service, and all for others, never for herself,” the President said in a Facebook post.

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