DMW Secretary Susan ‘Toots’ Ople passed away

Susan 'Toots' Ople Cause of death. (Source: Facebook)
Susan ‘Toots’ Ople Cause of death. (Source: Facebook)


We are shocked to learn that DMW Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople passed away on August 22, 2023. She will be remembered as a pioneer who worked for the Philippines government and was the first Secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers.

Continue reading to find out Susan Ople’s cause of death, what happened to her, and how she passed away.


Who was Susan Ople?

Maria Susana Vasquez, aka “Toots” Ople was the first Secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers and a politician from the Philippines who fought for the rights of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). The youngest of Blas F. Ople and Susana Vasquez’s seven children, Susan Ople was born on February 9, 1962.

During the Marcos administration, her father was both the Labor Secretary and Minister and then a Senator. She assisted her father in the Senate as his head of staff and later at the Department of Foreign Affairs when he was appointed Secretary.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed Ople as Undersecretary of the Department of Labor and Employment in 2004. She then attempted to run for senator in the 2010 elections in the Philippines, however she came in 34th out of 61 candidates.


The Blas Ople Policy Center (BOPC) was founded by Susan Ople, who also served as its president. It supports overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in need throughout the world.

Ople co-anchored the well-liked daily radio program “Bantay OFW” at DZXL’s Tatak RMN network in order to advance her advocacy. Additionally, she hosted a radio show on Saturdays called “Global Pinoy” on DWIZ 882 AM.

In the 2016 Philippine Elections, Ople again ran for senator under the Nacionalista Party banner. She pushed for policies to be passed that would improve the welfare of OFWs while also addressing important problems that now impact them.

Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Jejomar Binay, Grace Poe (of which Ople was a member of a senatorial slate), and Rodrigo Duterte were four of the five presidential contenders who supported her. She came in last out of 50 contenders, placing 22nd.


Ople was named secretary of the newly established Department of Migrant Workers by President Bongbong Marcos in 2022. Her appointment was approved by the legislative Commission on Appointments on November 29, 2022, making her the first secretary of the recently established executive department.

How did Susan Ople die?

Susan “Toots” Ople, the secretary of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), passed away on August 22, 2023. She was 61.

In a statement announcing her passing, DMW stated:

It is with great sadness that the Department of Migrant Workers announces the passing of our dearest Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople.

Secretary Toots peacefully joined our Creator at around 1PM today, August 22, 2023 surrounded by her family and loved ones.

We shall be releasing more details soon. For the meantime, we ask for prayers for the eternal repose of the soul of our dear Sec. Toots.

We ask as well for prayers for the Ople family.

Her commitment to the caare of OFWs led to her appointment as the Department of Migrant Workers’ first Secretary, a position she carried out with exemplary kindness and efficiency.

She was a passionate supporter of labor protection, helping to create laws to address the difficulties experienced by OFWs, such as fair recruitment procedures, access to healthcare, and reintegration programs after they return to the Philippines.

The legacy of Toots Ople is inextricably linked to her tireless efforts to uphold the rights, dignity, and welfare of the numerous Filipinos employed abroad. The country suffered a great loss when she passed away on August 22, 2023.

President’s reaction:

The nation is mourning the loss of the secretary, and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. gave Ople deep praise for her “outstanding expertise and profound empathy” in her professional endeavors, notably in her commitment to migrant workers.

Marcos said,

“It’s very, very sad news. I have lost a friend. The Philippines has lost a friend. Secretary is a special person with a deep compassion really, really for the people that she had cared for, mainly the migrant workers.”

Ople was compared to her father, Blas Ople, who worked as the labor secretary and minister under Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. at the time.

He said,

“She was very much following the tradition of Ka Blas Ople, of excellence, of compassion.”

The President called Ople a friend and expressed his sorrow over the news.

He said,

“It’s very, very sad news. I have lost a friend, the Philippines has lost a friend. Secretary Toots was a special person.

With the deep compassion really for the people she had to care for, namely the migrant workers, and she was very very—she’s a big loss.”

Susan Ople dead: What was her cause of death?

Ople had been battling breast cancer, though DMW did not specify this as the reason for her passing. She put off thinking about being appointed to Marcos’ cabinet because of her health issues.

She took a medical leave of absence during Marcos’ second State of the Nation Address in July 2023.

Ople went on a “much-needed wellness break” to “spend time with family and to attend to her own wellness needs,” according to a statement released by DMW on July 25. Apparently, she passed away on August 22, 2023, as a result of the illness.

This happened after the subsequent deaths in July of her brothers, Blas Ople Jr. and Felix “Toti” Ople, both of whom had lung cancer and were the former mayor of Hagonoy.

The funeral and burial arrangements for her have not yet been made public.

Tributes to Susan Ople

Online tributes have been published for the powerful woman Susan “Toots” Ople from the Philippines. She will always remain a part of country’s history.

Senator Risa Hontiveros wrote: “The untimely passing of Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople, a true public servant and ally, deeply saddened us.She dedicated herself wholeheartedly to the welfare and well-being of Overseas Filipino Workers. Her work extended far beyond the call of duty, as she tirelessly advocated for fair labor practices, better working conditions, and the protection of the rights of OFWs.She has always welcomed our office’s efforts in rescuing our kababayans who were victims of human trafficking. She bravely stepped up to help OFWs in need. She was a refuge for women workers who were experiencing abuse in foreign countries. She was at the forefront of the war against modern slavery. She was loving and full of faith.Sec. Toots was a beacon of compassion and a true champion of OFWs. As we bid farewell to a remarkable individual, a steadfast advocate, and a dear ally, may her legacy continue to guide us in our efforts to ensure that the rights and dignity of overseas Filipinos are respected.”

Lia Badillo-Crisostomo, who works at DMW, wrote: “I have only met and conversed with Secretary Susan Ople on several occasions when I was still with the Department of Labor and Employment and one constant thing about this wonderful lady is that she was always smiling, always accommodating, and always warm. She never even once made you feel uncomfortable because of age, gender, nor experience.I remember when we crossed paths during the ALMM event last year and I shyly said hi to her, she told me cheerfully, “Para kang sunshine. You brighten everyone’s mood here!”. She was already using a cane back then but never did I thought that it was the last encounter I would have with her.
Just like her noble and incorruptible Father, her legacy will live on. She is an inspiration not only to us younger people of government but she also serves as testament that women can do whatever they want as long as their hearts are in the right place.May Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople’s memories serve as a guiding light for all public servants and as a reminder of the profound impact one individual can make on the lives of many.”

Visit our website frequently to read more articles of similar type, and don’t forget to leave comments for Susan Ople’s cherished family as they go through this difficult period.


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