Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is backing the senatorial bid of labor and OFW (overseas Filipino worker) advocate Susan “Toots” Ople and vowed to campaign for her in Davao City and the rest of Mindanao during a casual dinner held last Friday at Hotel Elena in the city.
The popular mayor expressed his admiration for millions of OFWs and said he was very well aware of Ople’s advocacy, particularly on the fight against human trafficking.
“The mayor and I share a common cause: the fight against human trafficking. He was very emphatic in saying that no Filipino overseas worker should end up as a modern slave on a foreign soil,” Ople said.
She noted that Duterte considers human trafficking to be at par with the illegal drug trade in terms of severity as a transnational crime.
Ople received the Trafficking-in-Persons Hero Award from US State Secretary John Kerry in 2013.
She also received the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Alumni Achievement Award in 2010 for her work in rescuing victims of human trafficking from Syria.
Her non-profit organization, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, works closely with the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (Iacat) and other government agencies to address cases of human trafficking involving overseas Filipinos.
The lone Nacionalista Party senatorial aspirant described Duterte as having a keen interest in foreign policy and labor migration issues.
“I asked Mayor Duterte this: ‘In case you become President, what would you do to a Philippine ambassador who fails to come to the aid of a distressed, maltreated OFW?”
According to Ople, the feisty mayor quipped: “I will call him or her to my office for reassignment to Somalia with the barest of allowances.”
Duterte recounted how he had to travel to Saudi Arabia when he was still a member of Congress in order to intercede for two constituents who were arrested by muttawa religious police for carrying religious articles.
“I sought an audience with the King of Saudi Arabia, and he listened to my appeal,” he said.
The senatorial candidate from Bulacan expressed deep appreciation for the mayor’s hospitality and pledge to help her in the campaign especially for Mindanao.
“This is such a big boost not just to me personally, but also to the different OFW groups that support my candidacy. One particular social media organization named PEBA even wrote a letter to Mayor Duterte to seek his endorsement for my candidacy. The mayor’s pledge to support me means a lot particularly because he is known to be a man of action, and a man of his word,” Ople said.
Former OFW and family friend Lito Soriano and his wife, Rebecca, and Susan’s only daughter, Estelle Ople Osorio, were present during the dinner.