SUSAN “Toots” Ople, the first secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) and a Thomasian, died on Tuesday, Aug. 22, the agency announced. She was 61. 

Ople died at about 1 p.m. “surrounded by her family and loved ones,” the DMW said in a Facebook post.

Her nephew, Carlo Ople, said the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) rights advocate lived a “purpose-driven life.” 

“She had a golden heart for service, especially for overseas Filipinos. She dedicated her life to that mission and was truly an inspiration for those who were blessed to work with her,” Carlo said in a Facebook post. 

Ople was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2020, which she publicly disclosed last year. 

Ople graduated from the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters with a communication arts degree in 1985 and had worked as a writer, columnist, and radio host before assuming a labor undersecretary role under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.

She founded the Blas Ople Policy Center (BOPC) to provide assistance to Filipino overseas workers and commemorate his father, who served as labor minister from 1967 to 1986 under Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s regime.

“Secretary Toots Ople’s legacy of service and advocacy will forever be etched in our hearts and minds. Her passion for social justice and unwavering commitment to migrant workers’ rights made a profound impact on our society,” the BOPC said in a statement. 

Ople ran for senator in 2010 and 2016 but lost. 

Ople had been on a two-week wellness break since late July after two of her brothers succumbed to lung cancer.

Her family has yet to announce the details of the wake and interment. 


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