Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima, Chairperson of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) recently met with fellow anti-human trafficking crusader, Ms. Susan “Toots” Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute (Blas Ople Center), at the Department of Justice (DOJ) compound in Padre Faura, Manila to discuss the expansion of the campaign against human trafficking and to congratulate the latter for being awarded the 2013 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Hero Award by the United States Government.
Ople received the TIP Hero award in a ceremony led by US Secretary of State John Kerry held at the US State Department in Washington, DC, last June 19, 2013. It is annually presented to select individuals from all over the world who have dedicated their lives in combating modern-day slavery.
The TIP Hero award, together with the State Department’s Annual Trafficking in Persons Report, is part of the United States efforts in engaging the global community in the fight against human trafficking.
Ople was cited as having consistently been the key figure in spearheading assistance programs for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), primarily through the Blas Ople Center, an organization formed to handle labor and migration concerns and develop programs to empower the OFW’s and their families.
De Lima congratulated and exhorted Ople to keep up the good work. “The Philippines is very proud to have three (3) TIP Heroes already and the roster now includes you,” De Lima told Ople. Previous TIP Heroes from the Philippines include Cecilia Oebanda (2008) of Visayan Forum, IACAT’s NGO Council Member representing the women’s sector, and Assistant City Prosecutor Darlene Pajarito (2011) who is now an Executive Officer of IACAT.
“She has championed the welfare of our countrymen in especially seeking justice for those victimized by human trafficking syndicates here and abroad. She perfectly deserves this award.” De Lima said.
On December 15, 2011, the Blas Ople Center was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as a member of the IACAT representing OFW’s in accordance with Section 20(g) of RA 9208, or the Anti-Human Trafficking Act of 2003, which states that “three (3) representatives from NGOs, who shall be composed of one (1) representative each from among the sectors representing women, OFWs and children” shall serve as members of the council. It has three (3) years since to serve as part of the anti-human trafficking body.
“The award she received strongly reflects on the US Department of State’s recognition of IACAT’s anti-human trafficking efforts.” De Lima concluded.30