Embattled Arroyo refuses to quit

Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has refused to give in to demands that she resign over vote-rigging allegations. 

Mrs Arroyo, whose position has been seriously weakened by her backers withdrawing support, said she would appoint a new government team soon. 

Ten Cabinet members stepped down in protest against Mrs Arroyo on Friday, calling on her to follow suit. 

An influential business lobby, a party in her coalition and a former president also pressed her to resign. 

Mrs Arroyo's problems stem from her admission she spoke to an election official after last year's polls, which she denied was cheating.

She said in a radio address on Friday that her opponents should take their concerns to Congress, where they could seek her impeachment - and where Mrs Arroyo's administration holds majorities in both houses. 

"In the meantime, I will continue to focus on the people's business, which is getting our economy moving and creating better quality of life for our people," the president said. 

Soldiers in the capital Manila were put on maximum alert, as army chief General Efren Abu told his troops not to intervene in the crisis, as has often happened in the past. 

Poor at risk 

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima was one of the 10 Cabinet members who asked Mrs Arroyo to quit. 

"The longer the president stays in office, under a cloud of doubt and distrust, and with her style of decision-making, the greater the damage on the economy," he said. 

The resigned officials called on Mrs Arroyo to make the "supreme sacrifice" and hand over power to her Vice-President, Noli de Castro, a former TV news anchor. 

The Liberal Party, a key member of the ruling coalition, and the powerful Makati business group also called on Ms Arroyo to resign. 

"It is no longer possible for her to govern," said former President Corazon Aquino, a close ally of Mrs Arroyo's coalition. 

But several of Ms Arroyo's closest advisers in the Cabinet backed her, including Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales.

"[The resigning officials] have tried to do this probably in order to appear like heroes and the rest of us are villains," he said. 

Illegal gambling 

Mrs Arroyo is facing demands to quit over allegations she cheated her way to victory in last year's election. 

The president apologised last week for a "lapse of judgement", after admitting that she phoned an election official during the 2004 poll, but she has denied trying to rig the poll. 

"I was anxious to protect my votes and during that time had conversations with many people, including a Comelec [commission on elections] official," she said last week. 

"My intent was not to influence the outcome of the election and it did not." 

In addition to the election controversy, the president also faces separate allegations that members of her family took pay-offs from illegal gambling syndicates. 

To try and defuse that controversy, her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo has left the country indefinitely, and is now in the US. 

Mrs Arroyo is also losing popularity due to the poorly performing Philippine economy, and proposed budget reforms. 

But nevertheless, public protests against her have so far been relatively small.

08/07/2005

Bron : BBC News

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