In March 2012, Solita Monsod (more popularly known as “Mareng Winnie”) tackled – in her program “Bawal ang Pasaway” in GMA News TV – transgenderism, dealing with the some of the issues faced by transgender Filipinos while interviewing Naomi Fontanos, executive director of Gender and Development (GANDA) Filipinas, and Heart Diño, the first-ever transwoman chairperson of the University Student Council of UP-Diliman. As she editorialized, Monsod stressed how focus needs to be placed on merit, and not on sexual orientation and gender identify and expression (SOGIE).
Having dealt with LGBT-related issues, Monsod said that she didn’t deal with these issues solely because they are LGBT-related. “I did not actually see it as an LGBT issue,” she said. “I saw it as human rights issues.” As such, “it was not my intention to advocate for LGBT rights.”
For Monsod, LGBT-related issues are “‘magaan dalhin’ because the personalities involved are colorful, courageous and charming,” she said. “Equally important, from my point of view, the LGBT community, or most of them, don’t take themselves too seriously. This is not meant to be a criticism: they take themselves with a grain of salt or with a sense of humor that is disarming.”
Monsod, who was born in 1940, was educated at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She holds the rank of Professor Emeritus at the University of the Philippines School of Economics. She served as the fifth Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) while, concurrently, serving as the socio-economic planning secretary of the Philippines from 1986 to 1989.
As a media personality, Monsod was a correspondent for GMA Evening Report (from 1974–1976), commentator for News at Seven (from 1976–1986) and for GMA Balita (from 1989–1995), and co-anchor of Saksi (from 1995–1999). She was also the co-host in GMA Network’s show “Debate with Mare and Pare” (with former Pangasinan Governor Oscar Orbos), and “Palaban” with investigative journalist Malou Mangahas and Miriam Quiambao. She similarly worked for the news program “News on Q” on QTV Network; and for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Monsod already received numerous awards for her works, including KBP’s Broadcaster of the Year in 2000; Catholic Mass Media Awards’ Best Public Affairs Program in 2000; Star Awards’ Best TV Program Host (Public Affairs Program) in 1999; Soroptimist International Makati’s Woman of Distinction in 1995; and Philippine Free Press’s Cabinet Secretary of the Year in 1988 and 1999.
Monsod is not one to veer away from hot button issues. In August 2012, she tackled yet another issue troubling many from the LGBT community (i.e. men who have sex with men): HIV. Interviewing Wanggo Gallaga, an HIV-positive HIV advocate, and Philip Castro, program officer at the United Nations Development Program, Monsod asked the hard questions on why HIV continues to be a problem in the Philippines, with the rates for the past 2010-2012 period alone already double the number of cases from 1984 to 2009; just as she stressed the need for self-awareness on people’s behaviors for them to know their risks for HIV infection.
Monsod considers as a big achievement her very relationship with the LGBT community, which she said is because “I am gender blind.” As such, even sans any specific program, “I will help when and where I can.”
If there’s a lesson Monsod can share to the LGBT community, it is to do with pride. “Continue as you are. Your best assets are yourselves,” she ended.