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Philippine President Challenges Opposition Pressure to Resign

Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has again promised she will not resign, and challenged the opposition Thursday to reveal its plan for the country if she is forced from office by vote-rigging allegations.

In a speech to visiting Philippine-American businessmen, Mrs. Arroyo announced new cabinet members to replace those who resigned last week as the political crisis gained strength.

The Philippine leader said her new team was a good one that could run the day-to-day affairs of the country while she worked on "fundamental reforms."

Last week Mrs. Arroyo faced numerous calls for her resignation, with ten of her cabinet members quitting and key political, business and civic allies withdrawing their support.

But the 58-year-old leader appears to be weathering the crisis. Influential bishops declined to join the calls for her resignation, and former president Fidel Ramos and some other politicians threw their support behind her.

These politicians are urging Mrs. Arroyo to back a plan to change the current presidential government system to a parliamentary one.

Mrs. Arroyo says she has sound ideas for reform and challenged the opposition to show its plan of governance.

"The opposition has shown no plan, no plan but the blueprint for obfuscation and division," she said. "I challenge my opposition to show their true colors. Show me the plan. You don't have one. And even if the people don't like me right now, neither will they follow a road that leads to nowhere."

On Wednesday the opposition held its largest protest yet. More than 40,000 people filled the streets of Manila's financial district demanding Mrs. Arroyo resign.

But the demonstration was far smaller than the hundreds of thousands of people who toppled two previous governments - Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001.

Mrs. Arroyo's supporters say they will stage an even larger demonstration Saturday, while the opposition has vowed to continue their own protests.

A defiant Mrs. Arroyo says she will never resign, and is happy to defend herself against an impeachment motion filed in the legislature over the cheating allegations.