The Catholic Church’s migrants commission on Wednesday expressed grief over the death of Susan “Toots” Ople, the secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers.
“We lost a hero,” said Bishop Ruperto Santos, vice chairman of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-ECMI).
“It is a sad news, a very sad occasion especially for our OFWs [overseas Filipino workers]. Her heart is completely for them. Her whole life is for our country,” he said.
The labor rights advocate passed away on Tuesday aged 61.
Ople was the first secretary of the DMW, a government agency formed last year to protect the rights and promote the welfare of about two million OFWs.
She was the daughter of Blas F. Ople, a former Labor and Foreign Affairs secretary, and Senate president.
With a heart for the OFWs, Susan Ople founded the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute (Ople Center) in 2004, a nongovernment organization focused on helping OFWs and combatting human trafficking.
The cause of her death was not immediately clear but the DMW said it would be releasing more details soon.
News reports say she was already in remission from breast cancer when she was appointed as DMW head in 2022.
A BusinessMirror obituary said Ople sought for a two-week leave on July 25 after her two elder brothers—Blas V. Ople Jr. and former Hagonoy Mayor Felix “Toto” Jr.—died five days apart last June to grieve and be with members of her family “while also looking after her own wellness needs” as she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Santos added Ople had “served well doing all sacrifices for the best of our nation and utmost welfare of our people.”
“Her legacy as of her father, Blas, lives on,” Santos said.
“We, at CBCP-ECMI, pray and offer our Holy Masses for her eternal rest. We are one with our OFWs and her family in this moment of sorrow and bereavement,” he also said.
Image credits: DMW