Washington DC — Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Hero Awardee Susan “Toots” Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center vowed to step up and expand her campaign against modern day slavery with greater emphasis on forced labor trafficking as well as aftercare programs for victims of human trafficking.
Ople received the TIP Hero Award from US Secretary of State John Kerry in formal awarding rites held at the US State Department at 3.30 in the afternoon of June 19 (or 3.30 AM, Philippine time).
The other TIP Hero Awardees were: Laura Anyola Tufon, Northwest Regional Coordinator, Justice and Peace Commission, Cameroon; Katrin Gluic, Chief Police Inspector, Ministry of Interior, Croatia; Simona Broomes, Founder, Guyana Women Miners Organization, Guyana; Mohammed Bassam Al-Nasseri, National Officer for Capacity Building, International Organization for Migration, Iraq; Ippei Torii, Secretary General, Solidarity Network with Migrants, Japan; Javier Morazan, Public Prosecutor, Nicaragua; Juan Victoriano Ruiz, Head Lieutenant, TIP Investigations Unit, Nicaraguan National Police; and Paul Holmes, independent Anti-Trafficking consultant, United Kingdom (unable to attend the ceremony).
Ople was chosen by the US State Department from among different nominees endorsed by various US embassies and consulates throughout the world. “This is the best Father’s Day gift I could ever give to my dad,” the daughter and former chief of staff of the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople said. Aside from dedicating the award to her late father, Ople paid homage to fellow advocates in government, civil society, and the media. She also thanked US Ambassador Harry Thomas and the US Embassy in Manila for nominating her to be among the 2013 TIP Hero Award recipients.
“Ako lang taga-tanggap ng award pero para sa lahat ng anti-trafficking advocates ito – sa gobyerno, sa mga NGOs, sa media at lalung lalo na sa hanay ng mga OFWs,” she added.
(“I am merely accepting this award but it is meant to be shared with all anti-trafficking heroes in government, within civil society, the media and especially among the ranks of our OFWs.”)
The former labor undersecretary said that the recognition of the Ople Center’s work by the United States government came as a pleasant surprise since the non-profit organization only maintains a small staff in its Pasay City office.
Ople said the US State Department has organized a leadership and information exchange program for the TIP Hero awardees to include information sharing about aftercare services to trafficked victims as well as the work of other US-based non-profit organizations in the fight against modern day slavery.
“I intend to bring home what I’ve learned from the various anti-trafficking programs in the US and devote more time to studying the government’s aftercare programs for human trafficking victims especially those situated in foreign posts. In particular, I would like to offer my help in making sure that embassies and consulates including OWWA-run shelters are truly safe havens for oppressed OFWs,” she stressed.
Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large in charge of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the US Department of State welcomed the TIP hero awardees last Monday at the Meridian International Center. In his remarks, Ambassador CdeBaca reminded Ople and the other awardees that they have an obligation as Hero Awardees to reach out to other advocates in a global effort to fight modern day slavery.
The group also met with Chief of Staff to the First Lady Tina Tchen who also serves as the executive director of the White House Council on Women and Girls. Miss Tchen assured the TIP heroes of President Obama’s full support to the global campaign against trafficking.
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center is a non-profit organization established in 2004 in honor of Ople’s father who created the Philippine overseas employment program when he was still labor secretary. The Center works closely with embassies and consulates worldwide on the rescue and repatriation of trafficked victims. It also has a Skills Up program jointly with the Villar Foundation to upgrade the skills of said victims from domestic work to hotel housekeeping, administrative work, and commercial cooking. END