May 25, 2022

The recent appointment of Susan Ople can be seen as favorable to the plight of the Filipino migrants considering her years of experiences in both government and non-government services being a former undersecretary of the Department of Labor and Employment and founder and president of the Blas Ople Policy Center.  Yet her appointment can also be seen as a challenge to the Filipino migrant community as she is one of the staunch supporters of the “Migration for Development” strategy. This strategy of using migration as a tool for economic development means capitalizing forced migration and perpetuating the labor export program in order to prop up the ailing economy through remittances and mandatory fees to OFWs.

Looking back, Ms. Ople served as Undersecretary of the Department of Labor and Employment during the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who instituted the OWWA Omnibus Policies that created so much misery in the form of anti-migrant policies for OFWs. Moreover, her Ople Center has been inspired by her father Blas Ople who served for nineteen years under the Marcos regime, the pioneer of the Philippine Labor Export program, as Secretary of Labor. 

Ms. Ople’s plan to review the hiring system of OFWs is fine but she should stretch it more and consider abolishing the Overseas Employment Certificate and other mandatory fees, as President Duterte promised in 2016. 

Likewise, we challenge Ms. Ople to look back on the provisions of Republic Act No. 10022 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995which states that “the Administration shall not engage in the recruitment and placement of overseas workers except on a government-to-government arrangement only”. Passing the responsibility of service and protection by the government to recruitment agencies that extort onerous placement fees goes against this provision. We recall that Ms. Ople also lobbied for a bill at the lower house that offers incentive program for private recruitment agencies including exemption to POLO verification for job orders for agencies and foreign employers deemed “ethical and fair”.

Should she take up the post, Ms. Ople is challenged to fulfill the department’s language of “protection, rights, welfare, and services for migrant workers” under the different government agencies it covers.

The major concern is whether the creation of DMW is really for the benefit of Filipino migrants or just a move to centralize the promulgation of policies concerning overseas Filipinos to be implemented by the agencies under its wings. Wouldn’t this just further systematize the LEP?

Later today or early tomorrow, we are expecting a proclamation of the dictator’s son and tyrant’s daughter, Bongbong Marcos and Sara Duterte respectively, by the joint sessions of Congress and the Senate. This proclamation will cement another chapter of tyrannical rule in the country not to mention the continuing economic, political and cultural misery of the Filipino people which exacerbates forced migration.

But as for the immediate concern of migrant workers, we reiterate our demands to Ms. Ople or whoever will take charge of the DMWs to abolish the mandatory excessive government fees such as the OEC, mandatory insurance, Philhealth premium increase, mandatory Pag-ibig membership, and SSS that OFWs are required to pay on top of the basic requirements like passport, OWWA membership, health and training fees required by recruitment agencies.

Likewise, we demand genuine services and the creation of policies that truly protect Filipino migrants especially during these critical times.  ###