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Opinion

No labor pains

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Having deep roots in an organization can really make one’s job easier. That should be the situation when someone returns to a former job in an organization like in a government bureaucracy. But an organization is not static. It goes through drastic changes and transformation through the years. That’s how Secretary Bienvenido “Benny” Laguesma of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as well as Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople of the newly created Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) have returned to their former jobs in the bureaucracy.

Laguesma and Ople were among the first Cabinet appointees of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (PBBM) shortly after the latter’s official proclamation as winner of the May 9 presidential elections. After all, Laguesma and Ople are familiar names and faces to President Marcos. The two Cabinet members were associated with the late Labor Minister Blas Ople who once served the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the namesake father of the present Chief Executive.

Appearing as featured guests in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual news forum last Wednesday, both Laguesma and Ople sounded like two peas in a pod, so to speak. They talked about common grounds and same directions to their respective plans and programs for the next six years of the new administration of President Marcos.

Thus, it was almost like a walk in the park for both Secretaries of Labor and the Migrant Workers treading on familiar grounds when they attended the first Cabinet meeting convened by President Marcos at Malacanang.

A day after attending the Palace meeting, Laguesma echoed the repeated presidential appeals to all of them in the Cabinet to work as one team. “The left hand should know what the right hand is doing,” Laguesma quoted the exact words to them by the Chief Executive.

In the press conference that followed his first Cabinet meeting, President Marcos told Palace reporters he did not make or issued any so-called “marching orders.” In so many words, the President disclosed, he merely impressed upon all his Cabinet members the need for teamwork in addressing policy concerns and issues since these are all “inter-connected” with each other to enable the government to work efficiently.

Laguesma could not agree more. The 70-year-old Laguesma is a veteran in the bureaucracy. As a young lawyer then, he started at the Labor Ministry from 1976 to 1986 under Minister Ople. He credited Minister Ople as “the father of the Philippine Labor Code” that serves as the bible of all labor laws that protects the welfare and well being of all Filipino workers here in our country and elsewhere in the world.

Thus, the late Minister Ople is also regarded as “the father of overseas Filipino workers” (OFWs) when employment and job opportunities abroad were offered as “options” for those wishing to also work and live in other countries. That’s how Sec. Ople, the youngest daughter in the seven children of Minister Ople, proudly remembers their late patriarch.

In fact, she put up the Blas Ople Policy Center (BOPC) to assist distressed OFWs in various parts of the world. She produced block-time radio programs and opened a Facebook page where she directly links up with the families of OFWs.

“Toots,” as she is fondly called by her pet name, had served her father in the Senate as well as during his stint as Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs during the term of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. It was during Mrs.Arroyo’s administration when Toots was first appointed as DOLE Undersecretary from 2004 to 2009. She ran twice but lost in her own Senate bid, the first time in May, 2010 and then during the May, 2016 elections.

Now 60 years old, the daughter returns to her roots as Secretary of DMW that was carved out of the DOLE. The DMW was created by Republic Act (RA) 11641 signed into law in December, 2021 by former President Rodrigo Duterte.

Under the newly created Department, agencies previously attached to the DOLE were transferred under the DMW. These include the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA); the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA); and the International Labor International Affairs Bureau  (ILAB) which all were attached agencies to the DOLE. Also placed under the DMW were, namely, the Tacloban-based National Maritime Polytechnic; the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (previously under OWWA); and, the office of the Social Welfare Attache (under the Department of Social Welfare and Development).

Laguesma publicly reassured Ople she won’t have any problems when these erstwhile DOLE-attached agencies are eventually transferred to the DMW. It was, of course, in reference to the ensuing conflict between their respective immediate predecessors during the initial transition process.

As DOLE Secretary, Laguesma expressed readiness in sharing part of its 2022 budget to allow partial operations of the newly created DMW. The POEA, the OWWA and ILAB, he cited, have their own funds anyway from the same Congress-approved 2022 budget.

Laguesma announced the funds shall be transferred to the DMW in a memorandum circular the two agencies will officially forge under a joint circular. It will spell out the judicious transfer and use of the DOLE budget available in the remaining six months of this year to ensure no disruption of services to our OFWs, he added.

As of this time, Ople is still awaiting approval by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on the proposed staffing pattern for the DMW. By next year, Ople targets to fully operationalize the DMW.

Laguesma and Ople vowed to work closely together to promote the employment of professional and skilled workers and reduce the number of so-called “vulnerable workers” like domestic helpers who are prone to abuse, especially undocumented migrant workers.

Except for some hitches and glitches here and there, the week-old Marcos administration seems to be off to a good start.

No such labor pains though given the teamwork of the DOLE and DMW chiefs working hand-in-hand to carry the ball.

DMW

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