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Christmas cards for Duterte: Ople Center prodding OFWs to make them at their party

Susan "Toots" Ople, migrant workers' rights advocate, speaks at a forum in this November 2015 file photo. She's urging OFWs and their families to share their thoughts and sentiments with President Duterte in hand-made Christmas cards --a highlight of the Ople Center's Tuesday get-together. INTERAKSYON.COM
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - Families of overseas Filipino workers will have the chance to create their own Christmas cards for President Rodrigo Duterte during the 5th Annual Happy OFW Christmas party organized by the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-government organization that assists distressed overseas Filipino workers all over the world.

The annual Christmas party for OFW families, with the theme, “Celebrating Change!” is set Tuesday (December 13) at the Ramon Magsaysay Auditorium of the SSS Building in Quezon City.

“We will have special tables where our OFW families would be able to create their own Christmas cards for the President so that their messages of hope and perhaps even requests for reforms can be signed, sealed and eventually delivered to the Office of the President,” Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center said.

She said the activity is meant to allow families of OFWs to extend their private Christmas messages to the President. “Our OFWs refer to him as “Tatay Digong” and we would like to honor that special relationship between the President and his OFW constituents through this simple yet meaningful activity.”

Much of the goodwill enjoyed by the Duterte administration among OFWs stems from the political will shown in ending the “tanim-bala” scams, ensuring the tax-free “balikbayan” boxes, and in putting up regional one-stop OFW processing centers throughout the country.

During the celebration, the annual Pusong OFW Awards will be given to six leaders chosen by the Ople Center staff and volunteers based on their track record in helping OFWs and their families.

The six awardees are Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, former Vice-President and broadcaster, Noli “Kabayan” de Castro, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, former OFW Francisco “Jun” Aguilar of the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Group (FMWG) and OFW advocate Luther Calderon of Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino, Inc (KAMPI).

“We are proud to have these leaders join our roster of OFW champions that include previous awardees such as Senator Cynthia Villar, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, and OFW advocate and currently ACTS OFW Representative John Bertiz,” said Susan Ople, president of the Ople Center.

The Ople Center noted that Senate President Pimentel fought alongside the OFWs against Memorandum Circular No. 8 issued by the Manila International Airport Authority under General Manager Angel Honrado. Pimentel wrote the Office of the Ombudsman to complain about the memorandum, considering that it violates existing laws that grant exemptions to OFWs from paying the P550 terminal fee.

Bello was cited for leaping into action within the first 100 days of the Duterte administration to address unresolved issues concerning the unpaid salaries of over 10,000 stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia. “He personally went to Saudi Arabia and saw the urgency of the situation, and as a result, thousands of these workers have been able to come home.”


Broadcaster de Castro worked closely with the Ople Center in warning the media about Ozmando Hibalag, a large-scale illegal recruiter who victimized over 200 job applicants, many of who came from Davao City.

Quezon City Mayor Bautista is being cited for the work of his Public Employment Service Office in attending to the needs and concerns of OFW constituents. “Mayor Bautista is committed to expanding the city’s programs for migrant workers and in assisting victims of human trafficking. This resolve is matched on the ground by the actions being taken by his PESO staff.”

From civil society, the Ople Center identified Francisco Aguilar and Luther Calderon for consistently championing the rights of OFWs in public hearings and other forums. Both civil society leaders joined the Ople Center in filing a case against MIAA before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court for collecting airport terminal fees from OFWs.

“We are proud of this year’s roster of awardees and especially happy for the help of our sponsors for making this Christmas party for our OFWs possible,” Ople said. The Ople Center in partnership with PLDT Global Corporation will be giving away raffle prizes, gifts and food packages to more than 500 OFW families invited to the event, which is also co-sponsored by Paramount Life and General Insurance Corporation, I-Remit, Inc. and the Social Security System.