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Philippine President Asks Cabinet to Resign


Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Embattled Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, under pressure to quit over allegations of election fraud, says she is not stepping down. Instead, Mrs. Arroyo has asked her entire cabinet to resign at the start of what she promises will be massive government reforms.

President Gloria Arroyo made a strong statement aimed at her detractors, saying "I am not resigning my office."

Mrs. Arroyo is accused of cheating in last year's polls, which she won by a narrow margin. She admitted last week to calling a senior election official during the vote counting, and has apologized, but denies manipulating the results.

Mrs. Arroyo asked her cabinet to resign and promised to work with the Philippine Congress on much needed reforms, such as streamlining inefficient bureaucracy. "This is neither political ploy nor gimmick. This will be a legacy," she said.

But Mrs. Arroyo is under increasing pressure. Already cracks are appearing in her support base, as priests, Catholic academics, and former military officers demand she step down because, they say, she has lost the moral authority to govern.

The Catholic Church and the military helped her gain the presidency in 2001 when her predecessor, Joseph Estrada, was ousted by mass protests amid corruption allegations.

Mrs. Arroyo said the current crisis has damaged the country, but she would not allow mass protests to topple another government. She said such a move would "condemn" the nation as one that "shoots itself in the foot" and severely damage investor confidence.

An impeachment case filed in Congress has little chance of success unless there are mass defections from her party, which holds the majority.

A recent survey showed 60 percent of Filipinos want Mrs. Arroyo to resign and her popularity rating has plunged to the lowest ever for a Philippine president.

Adding to her woes, Mrs. Arroyo's husband, who is accused of pocketing illegal gambling money, has gone into self-exile in the United States. Her son, implicated in the same scandal, is expected to follow later this week.

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