An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) advocate has accepted an offer of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to be the latter’s guest candidate for the 2016 elections.
Susan “Toots” Ople, also the lone senatorial bet of the Nacionalista Party (NP), on Wednesday said she is also open to other endorsements, as long as these are based on a keen interest in and appreciation of her cause to promote the rights and welfare of OFWs.
Ople is running on a platform that is focused on OFW and labor rights.
“I am in this race because I have ideas to share and concerns to raise. My father had always waged his political campaigns based on issues, not personalities. I shall endeavor to do the same, no matter how difficult that may be given the weird political environment that we are in,” she said.
Susan is the youngest daughter of the late former senator and Labor and Foreign Affairs secretary Blas F. Ople.
The decision to accept UNA’s offer came after Ople met with Sen. Gregorio Honasan, the vice-presidential candidate of UNA standard-bearer Jejomar Binay, last Monday in Quezon City.
Honasan, Vicente Sotto and Tessie Aquino-Oreta were together in the Senate with then-fellow senator Ople.
Honasan “gave me advice and I felt his sincerity all throughout our conversation. He also understands and appreciates my predicament because the NP has not just one, but three members vying for the vice presidency. He emphasized that the offer came without any conditions from UNA. We agreed to collaborate on certain issues, particularly on global security concerns that now have an impact on the lives of our OFWs,” Ople said.
In particular, the labor advocate expressed concern over the plight of more than a thousand Filipinos, mostly women domestic workers, still in war-torn Syria.
The Russian government has been reported to be aggressively using its air power to back embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against various rebel groups including those influenced by the ISIS.
“Lives of Filipinos overseas hang in the balance in conflict-affected countries such as Libya, Syria and Iraq. Let’s keep tabs on them, and beef up resources for our embassies to be able to protect them,” Ople said.
The senatorial aspirant from Bulacan also urged the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) to offer calamity assistance to OFW families affected by Typhoon Lando.
Her hometown of Hagonoy, Bulacan, is among those affected by floodwaters from Pampanga.
“With billions in membership funds, OWWA has the capability to assist its members and their families direly affected by this recent calamity. Certainly, it can mobilize its regional offices to spearhead relief operations, and as a clearing house of information for OFWs who are unable to contact their families in calamity-stricken areas,” Ople said.
She received the Hero Acting to End Modern-Day Slavery Award from the US State Department in 2013.
Ople was also conferred with the Alumni Achievement Award from the Kennedy School of Government-Harvard University in 2010.
She is the only national candidate running on a platform against human trafficking, and for the protection of OFW rights and welfare.
“This is a 24/7 concern of mine,” Ople said.