Ople to address OFW hiring issues, push for data-driven policies

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) — Incoming Migrant Workers Secretary Susan 'Toots' Ople said it was hard to say no to the offer of presumptive president Bongbong Marcos for her to lead the newly created Department of Migrant Workers.

The OFW rights advocate said that she and former Labor Secretary Benny Laguesma met with Marcos on Monday to discuss his visions for the local and migrant worker's sector.

"He told us that we need to work closely together to ensure that the transition into the new department and DOLE agencies which will be integrated into it under the law will be smooth and no existing services will be disrupted," Ople said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

Ople noted she has yet to name the members of her team but she shared some of her initial plans for the Department of Migrant Workers.

Signed into law in December 2021, the new department is expected to be fully constituted next year after getting an approved appropriations from the 2023 budget, staffing pattern from the Budget Department and a published Implementing Rules and Regulation (IRR).

"Consult with the stakeholders kasi alam mo sa NGO world, kapag nag uumpisa kami ng proyekto may ginagamit na phrase yung co-creation phrase meaning yung ideas ng lahat [In NGO world, everytime we start a project, we also use the phrase co-creation meaning all the ideas…] will be used on how we can change things for the better. Gather the best ideas from the best people, make sure that the right people are in place and they are motivated to work together," Ople said.

Need for data-driven policies for OFWs, review of hiring process

After spending years of helping distressed OFWs, Ople said there is a need to gather all data for OFWs in order to formulate sound policies for them.

"How to use data and how to gather data which are needed to make evidenced and science-based policies. It would also be exciting what are the drivers in every region that would push a mother to consider working abroad. What are these drivers? Is it climate change, is it disparity in wages, I would like to see some science, data driven projections in migration governance," Ople said.

The former labor undersecretary wants to look into the loopholes in terms of hiring OFWs. Ople has been involved in rescuing distressed OFWs from abusive employers.

The Blas Ople Center previously flagged the plight of abused OFWs in Saudi Arabia hired by a Saudi military general. The situation also prompted the Labor Department to issue a deployment ban to newly-hired domestic workers.

"Paano yung loopholes yung previous employers na may cases of abuse bakit nasa roster pa rin gaano ba ka-consistent yung blacklisting ng abusive employers, pag na-blacklist ba ganoon na lang ba iyon or do we take extra effort to filing cases against them hindi natin alam," Ople said.

[Translation: How about the loopholes of previous employers with cases of abuse? Why do some of them are still in the roster of accredited employers. How consistent are we in blacklisting abusive employers and if and when we blacklist them do we go the extra mile of filing cases against them?]

Ople also intends to study the possibility of commending good employers and recruiters who also helped Filipino migrant workers during the pandemic.

"On the opposite spectrum, how do we take care of good employers, should they also be entitled to some sort of recognition," Ople said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddyboy Locsin Jr. congratulated Ople for her appointment calling her the OFWs's last best hope.

"You are the OFWs's last best hope. You've given your all to their safety and wellbeing; but add just a little more to your all," Locsin said.