Migrant workers advocate Susan "Toots" Ople on Tuesday said building the morale of overseas Filipino workers would be one of her priorities once she leads the newly-created Department of Migrant Workers.
Ople, who has recently accepted the offer of presumptive president Bongbong Marcos' team to be part of his Cabinet, said she wants to "change the narrative" of the OFWs once she assumes her new role as migrant workers secretary.
"I would like them to leave as dignified as possible. Na parang it's an informed choice, not a rash decision. It's an informed choice to be made together with the family. So that mindset I want to bring to the table," Ople told ANC in an interview.
"I want to tell them, yung OFWs, don't see yourself as kawawa because certainly we don't look at you that way. What we want is all of us are architects of our own economic recovery, so you are part of the economic recovery," she added.
Ople is the daughter of the late Sen. Blas Ople, who also served as labor minister during the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos' administration. She is the founder of the Blas Ople Policy Center and Training Institute which assists exploited and trafficked OFWs.
While the Department of Migrant Workers has no funding yet as it was created after the signing of the 2022 national budget, Ople said she would focus on stakeholder consultations during the first six months of her term.
"I think it's important that I consult with the stakeholders, that we have a common vision for the department. In NGO parlance, we talk about co-creation in developing projects. I want to have a co-creation phase with our stakeholders, especially the OFWs," she said.
Aside from this, Ople said she would also hold a systems and performance review to see what can be changed in the country's current policies involving migrant workers.
"Why is it difficult for good employers to get Filipinos in the same way that bad employers, sometimes they even have an easier time to get Filipino workers? So there's something wrong with the system. So we need a systems review," she said.
Aside from Ople, other individuals who were named as part of the Marcos Cabinet include Bienvenido Laguesma for labor secretary, Arsenio Balisacan for socioeconomic planning secretary, Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla as justice secretary, Benhur Abalos as interior secretary, and presumptive vice president Sara Duterte-Carpio for education secretary.