Last month, President Marcos of the Philippines won a 90 per cent ote in favour of continuing his rule by martial law; and nearly as big a majority for his plans for limited constitutional change.
Last month, President Marcos of the Philippines won a 90 per cent ote in favour of continuing his rule by martial law; and nearly as big a majority for his plans for limited constitutional change. It was a vote of confidence from a society that ranges from the immensely wealth to the very poor.
SYNOPSIS: Up to two hundred thousand people live in the Tondo -- the most notorious slum area of Manila. They are among the poorest in a society where 85 per cent live below the poverty line. Many of them have been offered new homes under government resettlement schemes and have refused them. They find there is no work for them away from the city centre.
This is the home of one young couple -- shared with their three children, an orphaned nephew and niece and the wife's mother. They live in one room, without running water or electricity. They had a better home, which they built themselves; but it was bulldozed down in a slum clearance scheme. They were resettled, an hours' journey away, but soon drifted back, because the husband couldn't find a job.
More than two-thirds of their income goes on food -- and they live largely on rice and vegetables. Nearly three quarters of all households are undernourished. Yet surveys have found that the philippines produces enough food for everyone if it was equally distributed.
The husband drives a jeepney for a living -- a gaily decorated mini-bus. He works 12 hours a day, seven days a week; and after he has paid the owner's share of the fares he takes he has about 17 pesos (just over two United States dollars) a day for himself and his family.
It is people like these who have given President Marcos his massive vote of confidence. One reason is that his authoritarian government has restored peace and order. The choice, as a local priest put it, was: Marcos or Communism or chaos.
At the other end of the scale, the luxury home of the scale, the luxury home of a rich industrialist -- a member of one of two or three hundred families that control the Philippines economy. The land alone is worth 100 United States dollars a square metre. The family has a valuable collection of prize orchids, and half a million dollars' worth of antiques. They have more than 20 companies, including distilleries, food processing and a copper mine.
President Marcos is planning to bring this disparate society nearer to democracy with a new national assembly -- though he will retain power to govern by decree in emergencies. And nothing has been said about the 50-thousand people who, according to Amnesty International have been arrested and not brought to trial since martial law was proclaimed four years ago.