Philippine Labor Finds A Champion: Susan ‘Toots’ Ople
The labor sector has found a new champion for next year’s elections.
She’s former labor undersecretary, the youngest among the 7 children of the late labor secretary Blas F. Ople.
Ople’s political vehicle is the newly launched Maka-Manggahawa Movement.
3M brings together the local labor sector, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families, and is led by former OFW-turned-businessman Jun Aguilar and former UP Dean Prof. Rene Ofreneo.
The organization swore in its interim board at the Isabelo delos Reyes auditorium in University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations (UP Solair) in Diliman, Quezon City and declared that they’ll campaign for Ople in all barangays, schools, and workplaces all over the country.
Accepting the draft, ‘Ate Toots declared:
This country I will serve whatever happens in 2010 and beyond.
The labor sector and the OFWs abroad, I will not fail you. Bali-baliktarin man ang mundo, may isang mensahe ang totoo, the Filipino worker is indeed worth fighting for.
Ople unveiled a 5-point program for Philippine labor:
1, Develop a long-term strategic employment plan with clear targets and complemented by a labor and skills map to address the mismatch between available jobs and available skills. Dahil wala tayo pang matagalang employment strategies, maski musmos, paga-abroad na ang iniisip.
2. Structural reforms in OWWA, POEA, NLRC and DoLE to include more OFW seats in OWWA’s Governing Board, professional standards and higher pay to discourage corruption among labor arbiters and hearing officers at NLRC and POEA, and greater focus on local employment and social protection within DoLE.
3. A strong stance against the unethical and exploitative outsourcing of core and essential jobs, which hinders the growth of unions, and the right to collective bargaining agreements.
4. To make it a national inspiration and aspiration that by the end of six years, whoever sits as president, shall endeavor to cut by half the number of Filipino women leaving the country to work as domestic helpers abroad.
5. Empowerment of trade unions and workers’ associations including cooperatives.
Toots expounded on her visions thus:
Ang manggagawa na kabilang ng union ay naiimbita sa dayalogo, nakakapasok sa loob ng board room, kinakausap ng gobyerno, lumalakas ang loob sa piling ng mga kasama.
Ang manggagawang nag-iisa ay madaling paghintayin sa labas ng HR hanggang magsawa sa kahihintay. There is strength in numbers, especially in tripartite negotiations.
Speaking calmly yet passionately, Ople lamented how “there are people who are quick to label those who express pro-worker sentiments as too radical or as communists.”
But she correctly pointed out:
An economy cannot prosper if its people are perennially broke. A country can never hope to advance if the quality of life of every worker remains poor. Paano tayo magkakaroon ng matibay at masiglang middle class kung ang isang breadwinner ay pa-five months, five months lang ang kontrata?
Prof. Rene Ofreneo:
Natutuwa kami na dumating sa ating bansa ngayon ang ideya na magkaroon ng makamanggagawa movement sa larangan ng Philippine politics. Ito po ay napapanahon na.
Annie Geron of the Public Services Labor Independent Confederation and Partidong Pandaigdigang Pilipino:
Malaki ang pagtingin namin sa iyo sapagkat doon sa mga nararanasan naming problema kahit gabi, anong oras, pwede ka namin tawagan, at ikaw nakakausap namin at kami ay tinutulungan. Naniniwala kami na makakatulong ka na ang mga kawatan na iyan sa gubyerno ay malipon natin at maipakulong natin.
Makakaasa ka sa amin sa sector publiko. Iluluklok natin ang bunso ni Ka Blas Ople, ang pambansang Ate ng OFW.
Nakikita namin na si kasamang Toots ang pwede pong kumatawan at magpatuloy ng kung anuman ang nasimulan ng kanyang ama.
Ngayon ko lamang nakita ang convergence ng OFW sector at ng labor sector, at ako po ay naniniwala na sa pamamagitan nito, makapaguupo tayo ng isang kakatawan sa atin sa Senado sa pamamagitan ni Ka Toots Ople.
Support for the young Ople was also expressed by senior representatives of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes, Samahang Magdalo and the Young Officers’ Union.
I was at yesterday’s event.
Having personally known the late great Blas F. Ople, and knowing Ate Toots and her tireless efforts at the Ople Policy Center helping oppressed and disposed Filipino workers anywhere they are, At Midfield stands foursquare behind her bid for the Philippine Senate!