Susan V. Ople

82 posts
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DOJ offers guidance on DMW law

ON May 5 or just a few winks away from election day, the Department of Justice sent an e-mail to the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization that I head, offering guidance regarding some questions I have raised about the confusing state of affairs at the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

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‘Group hug’

TUCP party-list Congressman Raymond Democrito Mendoza presided over the recent public hearing on the implementation of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Act where he requested the officials of the DMW, Department of Foreign Affairs and various agencies under the Labor and Social Welfare and Development departments to meet and resolve all disputes on how the law should be interpreted before Labor Day (May 1).

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Mama-o vs Bello

A flurry of memos, a hastily signed IRR, and an order for the POEA administrator to turn over all documents to the new secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW)—and the week isn’t over yet.

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Our staycation at Raffles Hotel

It’s the 61st birthday of my long-time partner, Fort Jose, and to celebrate we decided to go on a staycation within Metro Manila. After making several phone calls, I found out that most of our favorite hotels were either not open to guests or catered solely to visitors under strict quarantine. According to the Department of Tourism, staycation is now allowed in accredited Metro Manila hotels as we slide down to Alert Level 3 from October 16 to at least the end of the month.

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Emerging threat to OFWs’ mental and financial health: Online ‘sabong’

AS a migrant rights’ advocate, I have always been approached for advice by overseas Filipino workers and their families. I thought that I have most of the topics for discussion covered, from contract violations to trafficking in persons, and mental health as well as gender-based violence issues. Yesterday, I learned about a new threat to the welfare of our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), which caught me completely off guard. It was not in my list of pressing concerns.

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Will Leni run?

For now, no one really knows what her decision will be. I can only imagine the weight on Vice President Leni Robredo’s shoulders, because a 2022 presidential run requires extraordinary courage and near-infinite resources. Her declared opponents appear to have been blessed with both attributes—for example, Sen. Manny Pacquiao is second only to Sen. Cynthia Villar in net worth, with a declaration of P3.1 billion in assets. In contrast, Vice President Leni Robredo declared her net worth to be P11.9 million in 2020.

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Bring them home, please

IN his speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, President Duterte said: “We call for the abolition of all structures that allow the exploitation and oppression of migrant workers.”

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Dear DOH, fund cancer patients. Love, Toots

“Toots” is my nickname. I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer last year, and had breast surgery to remove the tumor done, two weeks before our first-ever enhanced community quaratine in March of last year. This column is dedicated to all the brave cancer patients that I have met, and the doctors, nurses, radiologists and medical workers that continue to care for them amid this global pandemic.

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Yet another hate crime in New York City

IN the Philippines, we have this “mano po” tradition. When we see our elders, we reach for their hand, bow, and press our forehead on their hand. I value this tradition as it shows love and respect not just for family and the elderly but also for the generation to which they belong. And this is why I am deeply worried about the rising number of hate crimes in America.

The doctor is in… Afghanistan!

Susan V. Ople - Scribbles

How many of you are afraid to even venture out of your front door because of the Covid-19? I am. And yet, here is a Filipina who has gone way beyond the local market, to work in the country that one fears the most: Afghanistan.

Are you scared, too?

I am scared. Too many people close to me are posting photos of lighted candles instead of their usual smiling faces on their Facebook pages. Good friends have crossed over, with no time for goodbyes, because of Covid-19. On Twitter and other social-media platforms, personal accounts of patients being made to wait hours in a parking lot of hospitals only to be declined due to lack of beds, break my heart. At home, a household rule has been set—no one leaves, period.

Ease in a skyway, hope in an airport

When my 92-year-old mother and namesake, Susana, visited me last Sunday, she and my elder brother, Felix, drove from Bulacan to Metro Manila via the scenic Skyway 3. My brother, the designated driver, gushed over how smooth and quick the trip was. We don’t often think of infrastructure development as projects of hope, because once built, it’s easy to just take these new roads, bridges, ports, and airports for granted. I think the excitement created with the formal opening of the 18.83-kilometer elevated tollway project of San Miguel Corp., from Buendia to Balintawak, led people to become more appreciative of big-ticket infrastructure development.

Scared to be swabbed? Take the saliva RT-PCR test challenge!

I have been swabbed twice, once in a hospital, and the second time at home. Both were Covid-19 tests administered by nurses, using a giant Q-tip, thrust into one nostril at a time. A different cotton-tipped plastic spear was used to swab my throat. In both instances, the process was quick, intrusive, uncomfortable but bearable. My two swab tests were part of Makati Medical Center’s requirements for surgery at the hospital.

Words of wisdom from Ka Blas

I remember, as a little girl, seeking my father’s help with my homework. He was to me back then what Google has become for all of us. He knew the answers and gave them out in brief and simple sentences that made it easier for me to write down. I may have good teachers in school but the best of them all was at home, just a kalabit away. That the teacher/mentor that I idolized since childhood never had a college diploma remains one of life’s best miracles.

Updates on the overseas employment front

AS we enter the ninth month of the global pandemic, barely anyone at the highest policy level has mentioned the recruitment industry as among the worst hit. Perhaps, some of them have yet to take the overseas recruitment industry seriously, as a business, because, well, there have always been too much drama and complex issues that come with having people as both clients and “products.” There is no doubt, however, that both the land-based and sea-based agencies are absorbing humongous overhead costs while waiting for the situation to normalize.

An appeal to House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco

Last Sunday, I joined a group of cancer awareness advocates including mothers of children with cancer, as part of a bike run event in front of the Manila Central Post Office to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Because of the rains and given the need for strict health protocols, the event was small in number but full of heart and hope. It was a miracle that we were able to meet and stage a tiny little bike run at all, and special thanks go out to Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno and his chief of staff, Cesar Chavez, for assisting us.

Fund the National Integrated Cancer Control Act!

Tomorrow marks the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer is the second leading cause of death for Filipinos, next to heart diseases. Among women, it ranks No. 1 as the cause of death, with breast cancer as the primary type with the highest incidence. The good news is that there are medical interventions combined with early diagnosis that can help cancer patients live long. In short, nowadays, a cancer diagnosis does not automatically come with a death certificate.

RSA’s dream: A new airport in Bulacan

The Covid-19 pandemic has virtually put foreign and local direct investments on hold, across the world. When people are scared to leave the house, both productivity and profitability suffer, and the cost of doing business is high enough to include one’s life.

A love letter to our nurses

I feel bad that our government is preventing some of our nurses from leaving to work in countries where a more advanced health-care system has led to a much better control of the Covid-19. Our Constitution speaks about the promotion of employment, not its prevention. Yet, here we are at an impasse. Your foreign employers are waiting for you, but my guess is, not for long. Meanwhile, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases wants you to stay as medical reservists, in case of another surge in cases.

Keep looking for the upside

This morning, I woke up to see my first green siling labuyo turn a bright, glorious red, while rooted in its humble clay pot. Pre-Covid days, I wouldn’t even know how it grew, and what its leaves looked like. I dislike spicy food. Yet, here I am—enthralled by my tiny chili pepper dangling from the slimmest stem, so delicate and beautiful in its being.

One day at a time

WE are not in control of life, as we know it, from this day onwards. All our business and social calendars have been reset to zero. What makes more sense is for everyone to now live one day at a time. Mankind has been stripped of its arrogance and self-indulgence. A virus that has the entire world in its deadly grip has come to teach us a lesson. We thought we were in control. We thought we were so modern and sophisticated. We strut, but now we kneel.

Let me think of Thursday

I write this on a Tuesday, my column deadline day. I know that tomorrow, Wednesday, will be a tough day. My doctors want me to be at the clinic by 6:30 in the morning for pre-op procedures. My surgery is scheduled at 9 a.m. on February 26.

Hello, cancer!

I am 58 years young, a mother with one daughter, and no family history of breast cancer. Yet, here I am, the latest blip on the breast cancer radar screen.

No to blood money!

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced an earlier statement issued by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. that called for “blood for blood” in exchange for the brutal murder of overseas Filipino worker Jeanalyn Villavende.

With love, from the Bangsamoro

Cotabato City—It was a hot, sunny day in Cotabato City, hundreds of miles away from heated debates on whether business establishments in Tagaytay City, should reopen while its volcanic neighbor threatens to erupt once more.

Her first name was Jeanelyn

Her first name was Jeanelyn. In deference to the bereaved family, I will not share her last name. She was deployed to Kuwait as a domestic worker on July 4, 2019. Based on her official employment contract, the name of her foreign employer was Adel Mejbel Zaid Alsanea. Jeanelyn was 26 years old. She hailed from a small village in Mindanao.

‘The Two Popes’

One of the best Christmas gifts within your fingertips does not require a box, ribbon and wrapping paper. It does require a Netflix subscription, though.

No, I will not be your scapegoat

I decided to devote this entire column to set the record straight on what transpired during the Joint House hearing of the Committee on Government Reorganization and the Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs. The joint committee hearing on the technical working group’s version of a bill creating a department for Filipinos overseas took place on November 26.

Back to work

The past several days have been quite exciting. We witnessed the rise and rise of our world-class Filipino athletes, and the lows and very lows of fake news galore. We witnessed whether live or via social-media platforms and traditional television channels, the cultural extravaganza that led to the lighting up of a controversial cauldron, which later led to a quite pointless national discussion over a particular song choice. It seems that we can’t fully accept being just simply sensational. That we had a Typhoon Tisoy dampening everyone’s spirits is but another natural element to our Filipino drama.

A good day for OFWs

IN life, there will always be good days and bad days. The second day of this week turned out to be a very good day for our overseas Filipino workers and for genuine advocates of migrant workers’ rights. Yesterday (November 26), the House of Representatives through the joint hearing of the committee on reorganization and OFW affairs approved a consolidated bill detailing the powers, structures and functions of a new department for overseas Filipinos especially our OFWs.

Sharing my keto journey

On December 1st, I shall be marking the second anniversary of my Ketogenic lifestyle. I lost more than 30 pounds and several inches, and was able to maintain the loss without the usual sweet tooth cravings. Of course, nutritionists and some doctors are not in favor of a shift to a fat-based, low-carbohydrates diet. I will not argue with them about this. All I can say is that my own doctor, who has been looking after our family’s health needs since our father was alive, has given me the clearance to continue with my keto lifestyle as long as I still take my maintenance medicines for hypertension and glucose management.

Another successful 9th OFW & Family Summit

They came from different parts of the country, in what has become an annual pilgrimage of sorts. I refer to Monday’s Ninth OFW & Family Summit convened by the Villar SIPAG Foundation, which was held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City. Thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families attended the event, hosted by no less than Sen. Cynthia Villar and daughter, Rep. Camille Villar. Present to cheer the hardworking mother and daughter team on was former Senate President and leading businessman Manny Villar.

Updates on the creation of a department for overseas Filipinos

On Tuesday, the technical working group tasked by the House Committee on Government Reorganization met at the Microtel Hotel in Quezon City. TWG chair Congressman Joey Salceda and cochair Congressman Eric Pineda of 1-PACMAN Party-list made the purpose of the second formal TWG meeting clear: come up with a final draft that is reflective of all the inputs of stakeholders.

How long will you live?

The average life span of a cockroach is one year. But, a cockroach does not know this. It does not scurry into safety at the sight of a giant shoe looming overhead, waiting for the perfect moment to squash it to extinction.

Praying for ‘Sunshine Nene’

My father, the late Sen. Blas F. Ople, and former Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. came from opposite sides of the political fence. My dad served in the Marcos Cabinet, while Pimentel was a staunch oppositionist. Yet, such differences never stood in the way of their friendship when they became colleagues in the Senate. There was mutual respect there, and yes, a fondness that ripened with time.

Senator Cynthia Villar: OFW champ

I have kept close ties with the Villar family ever since the 2010 presidential elections when former Senate President Manny Villar ran as a presidential candidate. I could never forget his kindness and generosity to the people who supported his bid, including the senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista Party. My father was a party stalwart during the Marcos days and so it was but natural that my first foray into national politics was under that same illustrious party.

Mocha Uson 2017 (1)

Dear Mocha

You are one of the lucky ones. This would be your third stint in an appointive position, while others continue to dream of being regularized after years of anonymity in government as a contractual employee. Your first appointment was as a member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board in 2017. The second appointment bestowed upon you was assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). After a string of controversies, you tendered your resignation from this office on October 3, 2018.

Can Clark be the next Hong Kong?

Young people who were born and studied in Hong Kong are now voting with their feet, choosing to emigrate to other places and countries that offer a work-life balance that the Chinese territory could never provide. It was estimated that around 24,300 residents left Hong Kong in 2017, representing a five-year high. Immigration consultants predict an even higher trend of departures among citizens who have become too weary and depressed over the endless protests and political battles for greater freedom and, yes, a better way of life.

On the dark side of cruel, slavery exists

There are times when I would look wistfully over the other side of the professional fence and imagine myself firmly established in the corporate life. Though fast-paced and highly competitive, one can move up the corporate career ladder based on the skills set and work ethic that he or she possesses.

DOLE needs to get its act together

Senior labor officials who attended the first organizational meeting and public hearing of the Senate labor committee wilted in the face of a succession of questions from the senators regarding the creation of a new department for overseas Filipinos.

The month for ghosts

According to Taoist and Buddhist beliefs, the seventh lunar month is when ghosts or spirits who passed on and are ignored by their loved ones come visiting with their
energy and powers at its highest peak. Natural and man-made disasters are more prone to happen during Ghost Month. Business decisions and even the most personal and critical ones are best put off until that dreaded month is over. Legend has it that if you swim in the deep blue sea during Ghost month, the spirits who died of drowning will come and drag you toward the deepest end. Ghost month covers the entire month of August.

A President in pain

Midway into his term, President Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) did not yield any big surprises, hewing closely to already familiar themes. I think it was a more mellow performance that had its own funny moments, showing the innate wit of our national mayor.

Should there be a new department for overseas workers?

President Duterte promised the creation of a separate department for overseas Filipino workers during his first State of the Nation Address. Recently, he resurrected that promise when he spoke before OFWs and their families at the “Araw ng Pasasalamat” celebration held in Camp Crame. Three senators have come forward to advocate for the new department, namely: Sens. Cynthia Villar, Imee Marcos and Christopher “Bong” Go. Senator Go expressed optimism that a law for this purpose would be enacted by December this year.

Dear Isko

You know Manila like no one else will. You have infinite stories to tell about your childhood and growing up years. Being an actor may have given you the skills and aptitude to communicate, but those stories are all yours. Use them. Keep reminding young people not to fear big dreams, because the bigger dreams are the best ones to catch.

PhilHealth, heal thyself

LIKE a love song, the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act of 2018 promises to take care of us until we breathe our last, through a complex health-care system and network that would need massive infusion of public funds to sustain.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport

We need a new international airport

We need a world-class international airport. I dare anyone to refute that statement. Lucky is the Filipino traveler who has yet to experience a delayed flight because of an extremely congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia). I doubt if such a passenger even exists.

A letter to my father

I visited your grave last Sunday. Your apo, Estelle, bought one of the three flowerpots that we brought to cheer you up on Father’s Day. Your resting place at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is in dire need of sprucing up. How long has it been since we lowered your body down there? Sixteen years. We ache for you still. And now there are cracks in the black slab of granite that juts out from the ground, serving as a divider between heaven and earth.  We promise to fix those cracks soon.

Raped at the airport

A Filipino domestic worker had recently been raped while she was in Kuwait’s international airport. Based on news reports, the rapist was a member of the airport’s security unit. The same report said that it was the Kuwait employer of the domestic worker that reported the incident to government authorities.

Partnerships for hope

AS a longtime overseas Filipino workers (OFW) advocate, I have seen how a repatriated overseas worker feels overwhelmed by so many mixed emotions, of relief layered with grief, and of hope at the fringe of anxiety. The hallelujahs that come from finally being able to come home and reunite with the family can easily turn into a somber prayer for help because starting over is never easy.

The new Senate

I got my first job after college as a researcher for Sen. Ernesto “Boy” Herrera. I earned around P3,000 a month, which, believe it or not, was a hefty sum during those days. But more than the salary, it was my good fortune to have a front-row seat to history. Back then, reporters took copious notes and enterprise stories were the name of the game. Senators weighed every word and came prepared for their privileged speeches and floor interpellations. We all learned a lot and came out of the old majestic Senate building in Manila with a remarkable sense of fulfillment.

Team Philippines vs modern slavery

The Philippines is the only Asean member in the Tier 1 category of nations with significant efforts in the fight against human trafficking, based on the 2018 Trafficking-in-Persons Report of the United States Department of State. We have held this distinction since 2016, and much of the work has been shouldered by the member-agencies of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

Where were you when the ground shook?

I was in the office, chatting with Jerome Alcantara, my trusty executive director at the Blas F. Ople Policy Center. Two of our other staff, Riza and Eva, came in from a nearby workshop with food in Styrofoam packs. Our case handlers, Jenny and Arman, were in their workstations, right before me.

‘Sana,’ true love

Love cannot be forced. It must come of its own free will. Like the gentle breeze that lifts a kite to kiss the clouds, love shuns any form of oppression. The true essence of love is freedom. You cannot be forced to “feel the feels.”

Stranded in Sri Lanka

What would you have done if you were an overseas Filipino workers stranded in the international airport of Sri Lanka with less than a hundred pesos in your pocket and a cell phone several bars short of full? Similar to the character played by movie actor Tom Hanks in the movie, The Terminal, 34-year-old Sunshine Sereno, a first-time OFW, found herself trapped in  Colombo airport, penniless and unable to set foot outside the airport.

Redefining overseas employment through the new SSS law

Definitions are important. Words that define who we are provide clarity, certitude and purpose. For example, I embrace the definition of a mother because that is who I am. That classification makes sense to me, and I have my daughter to raise and nurture and protect as any mother would. The definition of a definition is that it is a statement that expresses the essential nature of something.

Is Japan the next Saudi?

During the oil boom from the ’70s to ’80s, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia tapped Filipino construction companies to build its infrastructure from desert sands. These companies, aided by the Ministry of Labor during my father’s time as labor secretary, brought our best construction workers and engineers as pioneers in overseas employment. For more than 40 years, Saudi Arabia remains the No. 1 destination country for more than a million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

On the compulsory SSS membership for OFWs

Not all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) know this but pretty soon they would have to become members of the Social Security System (SSS) as a result of the passage of Republic Act (RA) 11199, otherwise known as the “Social Security Act of 2018”.

A candidate’s life

We were all candidates at one point in our lives. Courtship is an intense, romantic campaign to win another person’s heart. School is an endless series of candidacies—culminating in an onstage ceremony to receive a diploma as a seal of approval. Remember your first job interview? You were a nervous wreck, just like most candidates are these days. The difference is that there will always be a next job interview, but for an elective position, a candidate’s political fortune is decided in a single day by millions of potential employers.

A doctor in the Senate?

We met online months before the filing of certificates of candidacies. He “waved” at me, and I “waved” back. He asked for time to meet with me, declaring his intent to run for the Senate. I said, yes. Despite all best intentions, the meeting never happened. Well, until last Saturday.

Good move, Secretary Bello!

ON December 13, 2018, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III wrote a memorandum to Administrator Bernard Olalia of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), which states:

2019 will be a good year

THE latest Social Weather Station poll reveals that 9 out of 10 Filipinos welcome the New Year with hope. This shows great idealism on the part of our largely millennial-dominated population, and cheerfulness on the part of proud senior citizen card-bearers. With a mindset like that, it’s hard to look for the gloom and doom, especially when January 1 steps in bathed in glorious sunlight.

On music, time and Coldplay

These days, I spend a lot of time listening to music. It soothes me to hear familiar melodies wafting through my small home office, keeping writing deadlines at bay, and the noisy world on mute. One of the songs that I love especially for its lyrics is “Fix You” by Coldplay. My daughter reminded me on Tuesday while I was playing it for the nth time that when she was younger, I didn’t like Coldplay. Oh, but that was then. Things change.

Human traffickers, beware!

When I was 13, my world consisted of a backyard where I ran around and played, sometimes with my pet dog, Tootsie. In the bedroom I shared with my older sister, I had a doll with curly hair, which I trimmed with school scissors, thinking it would grow back soon. My five brothers and a sister have always been protective, knowing that I was the youngest and most prone to misadventures. It was a childhood that I cherished till this very day.