MANILA — A group of migrant workers on Friday urged presumptive President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to keep Secretary Abdullah Mama-o as the head of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), a post he has offered to someone else.
Marcos's camp this week said he was eyeing former labor undersecretary Susan "Toots" Ople to lead the agency, but the overseas Filipino worker (OFW) advocate has yet to decide on joining his Cabinet.
"Wala naman kaming sama ng loob o pagtutol kay Toots Ople," said Ken Bautista, vice president of the Unified Migrant Workers-Global.
"Kaya lang sa physical niya, hindi niya magagampanan ang napakadelikadong gampanin ng isang sekretarya sa OFW," he told ABS-CBN News on the sidelines of their small rally outside Marcos' headquarters in Mandaluyong.
(We have no ill will or opposition against Toots Ople. However, due to her physical condition, she cannot fulfill the role of the secretary for OFWs.)
Ople is battling stage 2 breast cancer, which she told TeleRadyo was "definitely a factor" in whether or not she would accept the offer to head the OFW department.
Mama-o deserves a chance to actually work as DMW Secretary, Bautista said.
"Na-appoint po siya ni President Duterte pero hindi siya totally nakapag-exercise ng kaniyang trabaho," he said.
(He was appointed by President Duterte, but he hast not yet totally exercised his role.)
Mama-o served as Duterte's adviser on OFW concerns before he was appointed to the newly-created DMW.
However, the agency remains under a transition period and is only expected to start operating next year, after Congress grants its budget under the 2023 General Appropriations Act.
In a letter sent to Marcos Jr.'s office, Bautista's group said that Mama-o deserved to stay at the helm of the DMW because of his qualifications.
"His level of competence in Islamic Factor of Diplomacy [would] enable a more profound access to important personalities and leaders in host governments in the Middle East where there is a high concentration of abused and distressed OFW cases," the group said.
There were some 2.2 million overseas Filipino workers in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic brought the figure down to around 1.71 million in 2020, according to government data.
Despite the economic slowdown that the pandemic caused, OFWs still managed to send home around P134.7 billion from April to September 2020 alone, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.