MANILA, Philippines – Fighting for her political life, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (search) said Thursday she was being unfairly demonized and asked her entire Cabinet to resign.
The comments in a radio address were another pre-emptive move by the increasingly desperate Arroyo, who is trying to fend off allegations that she fixed last year's election.
Rumors emerged earlier in the day that at least two, and perhaps a dozen, of her Cabinet members were preparing to resign, so Arroyo clearly took the offensive to forestall a sense that efforts to force her out were turning into an avalanche.
"First of all, I am not resigning my office," Arroyo said. "At the same time, I will restructure and strengthen the Cabinet. I am asking the entire Cabinet to tender their resignations.
"This is neither political ploy or gimmick. This will be a legacy."
While Arroyo again denied that she did anything wrong in talking to an election official about protecting a million-vote lead during the ballot count, she said it was nearly impossible to be a Philippine politician and avoid corruption.
"Our political system has degenerated to such an extent that it is very difficult to live within the system with hands totally untainted," 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 (search) was ousted by a "people power" revolt in 1986, a model used by pro-democracy movements around the world. Arroyo took office in "people power 2," which forced President Joseph Estrada (search) out in 2001 but led to criticism that ousting a leader was becoming too easy.
Arroyo warned that a third incarnation of "people power" would "condemn the Philippines as a country whose political system is hopelessly unstable."
The stock market and the peso have slumped as the crisis has unfolded daily on live television. A poll released Wednesday showed only two of every 10 Filipinos still trust Arroyo and nearly half believe she should no longer be president.
The daughter of a president, Arroyo lamented that her statement on the election controversy was seen by some as an admission of guilt.
"It is very painful for me to know that among many of our countrymen today, I have been demonized as the `bad guy,'" Arroyo said. "This is unfair, but it is a cross that God in his wisdom has given me to bear, so I will bear it."