Manila — Ten members of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s cabinet resigned Friday and urged the Philippine leader to step down, saying she has been crippled by an election scandal and has lost the ability to govern.
It was the latest blow to Ms. Arroyo, embroiled in accusations that she talked to an election official about ensuring a million-vote victory in last year’s presidential vote.
The men who make up the backbone of Ms. Arroyo’s economic team were among those who abandoned her.
“The longer the President stays in office under a cloud of doubt and mistrust and with her style of decision-making, the greater the damage on the economy and the more vulnerable the fragile political situation becomes to extremists seeking to undermine our democratic life,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said Friday.
“In the end the poor will suffer the most,” he added.
The resignations came after a defiant Ms. Arroyo gave a hastily arranged radio address Thursday night, saying she won’t step down and asking her entire cabinet to resign to give her manoeuvring room to survive her biggest crisis.
Opposition Senator Aquilino Pimentel called Ms. Arroyo’s address a panic move: “Like in chess, she’s close to a checkmate.”
If Ms. Arroyo goes down, she made clear it won’t be without a fight.
“First of all, I am not resigning my office,” said Ms. Arroyo, who earlier claimed her opponents have no platform other than to get rid of her and were engaged in “the most cynical manipulation” of the populace.
Several cabinet members said they supported Ms. Arroyo’s request.
“What she said was very clear, including the reforms we need,” Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Mike Defensor, a close Arroyo ally, told government radio. “The situation is really rotten.”
But opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson, who finished third in the May, 2004, presidential vote — runner-up Fernando Poe died of a stroke in December — derided Ms. Arroyo’s request.
“She should be the one to resign, not the members of her cabinet, because she is the cause of political instability and the root of political turmoil,” Mr. Lacson told DZBB radio.
Ms. Arroyo again denied she did anything wrong in talking to an election official during the ballot count about protecting a million-vote lead, and lamented endemic corruption.
“Our political system has degenerated to such an extent that it is very difficult to live within the system with hands totally untainted,” Mr. Arroyo said.
She said her new cabinet would have a free hand in governance while she focuses on fundamental changes to the constitution and the political system.
The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted by a People Power revolt in 1986, a model used by pro-democracy movements around the world. Ms. Arroyo took office in People Power 2, which forced out president Joseph Estrada in 2001 but led to criticism that ousting a leader had become too easy.
Ms. Arroyo warned that a third such revolt would “condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable.”
Globe and Mail