MANILA, Philippines — After getting recognition from the United States government for her crusade against human trafficking on Thursday, former labor undersecretary Susan Ople vowed to step up and expand her campaign against modern-day slavery by battling forced labor and promoting after-care programs for the victims.
Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, received the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Hero Award from US Secretary of State John Kerry during formal rites in Washington DC. She and the eight other awardees were chosen by the US State Department from among different nominees endorsed by various US embassies and consulates throughout the world.
In a statement, Ople dedicated her award to her father, the late foreign secretary, labor minister and senator Blas F. Ople.
“This is the best Father’s Day gift I could ever give my dad,” she said.
Ople also 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.
“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,” Ople said.
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 nonprofit 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,” she said.
The State Department noted how Ople “works tirelessly to reintegrate trafficking victims into Philippine society, believing that skills training combined with good job placement will empower these workers to secure safer employment.”
The awards coincided with the State Department’s release of its annual TIP Report, wherein the Philippines was retained in the “Tier 2” category for the third year.
The other awardees were: Laura Anyola Tufon of Cameroon’s justice and peace commission; Croatian police official Katrin Gluic; Guyana Women Miners Organization founder Simona Broomes; International Organization for Migration official Mohammed Bassam al-Nasseri of Iraq; Ippei Torii of Japan’s Solidarity Network with Migrants; British anti-trafficking consultant Paul Holmes; and Nicaraguans Juan Victoriano Ruiz, a police TIP investigator and Javier Morazan, a public prosecutor.