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As regards, Susan Ople, I have worked closely with her in constantly looking for ways and means to promote the welfare of Filipino workers, whether here or abroad. I know for a fact that she is very sincere when she says that every Filipino worker around the world is an extension of her own family. As President of the Blas Ople Policy Center (BOPC), she has been in the forefront of efforts to assist distressed Filipinos Workers (OFWs) in various parts of the world. She has spared no effort to come to the rescue of OFWs in trouble. She recounts one particularly emotional story, when her Center facilitated the return of Gerard Gonzalez, the Filipino who was part of the group captured by pirates in Somalia in 2010. As Ms. Ople reported: “He was held captive for three years. The longest ever for a Filipino hostage in Somalia. And he did not even receive his pay. There was an injustice in both his labor conditions and in the crime of holding him captive. That was the more eye opening for me.”
Ms. Ople has been extremely valuable as a resource person in the work of our Center for Research and Communication in doing intensive research on the conditions of the OFWs. She never stops learning more about these 10 million or more Filipinos who are the Number One engine of growth of the Philippine economy today. According to her, “I think I owe it to my sector to keep learning. I really feel a strong sense of obligation to understand what’s going on in the world because my constituents are spread all over the world. That’s why I study the news. I watch CNN. I read a lot of books. I really try.” What she is doing is the perfect formula for being an outstanding legislator committed to the welfare of a very important sector of Philippine society, i.e. the 10 per cent of our population who are working abroad and are exposed to all the vicissitudes and risks of the global economy. We need a person like Susan Ople to be in the Senate to be literally the “guardian angel” of OFWs. If I were an OFW who intends to vote in the next election, I would put her name as my one and only Senatorial choice so I multiply significantly her chances of being in the magic twelve.
The third candidate in my list is Congressman Roman Romulo who is the staunchest advocate of quality education for the poor and other underprivileged people I also have worked closely with him in formulating policies for technical education and for online education for OFWs. He has been mainly responsible, as Chairman of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education, for the enactment of laws that will provide access for more Filipinos to quality education, such as the Iskolar Ng Bayan Law, the United Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UNIFast Act), the Ladderized Education Act, and the Open Distance Learning Act. His active participation in the Senate in the next six years will be very crucial for our attaining inclusive growth (the number one solution to poverty is the improvement of the quality of education available in public schools to the poorest of the poor) and in avoiding the so-called middle income trap (which includes significantly improving the quality of tertiary education, following the famous Korean model). Congressman Romulo is also well known for his advocacy to lower income tax for middle and low-income individuals and for the passage of the very important Freedom of Information Act (FOI) which can help the next Administration continue the laudable campaign of the outgoing Administration to combat corruption.
For all the reasons above, I will have only three names in my senatorial slate: Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Maria Susana Ople and Roman Romulo. I know them well and can personally vouch for the great contributions they can make to enlightened legislation that will enable the Philippines to attain sustainable and inclusive growth. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.