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 Saturday, 20 January, 2001, 05:12 GMT
Profile: Gloria Arroyo
Vice-President Gloria Arroyo
Gloria Arroyo was waiting in the wings
After less than two years in the job, President Gloria Arroyo appears to have lost heart.

Describing the political atmosphere in the Philippines as "poisonous", she announced she would not run for president again in the elections scheduled for 2004.

President Arroyo was swept into office in January last year by a wave of largely middle class protest against her predecessor Joseph Estrada who was seen as corrupt and incompetent.

Vice-President Gloria Arroyo
Mrs Arroyo: Following in her father's footsteps
Mrs Arroyo is the daughter of the popular former President, Diosdado Macapagal, and her style could hardly be more different to that of the flamboyant Mr Estrada, a former movie star who was elected leader in 1998.

Mr Estrada, famed for his mangled English, numerous mistresses and fondness for drinking and gambling, portrayed himself as a man of the people.

High-flyer

Mrs Arroyo, by contrast, comes from the political elite and is a trained economist.

Estrada
Mr Estrada: Deposed
She was former US President Bill Clinton's classmate at Georgetown University in Washington and has a doctorate in economics from the University of the Philippines.

Like Mr Estrada, Mrs Arroyo is married with three children. Unlike him, she is not famed for a string of extra-marital affairs.

Filipinos hoped Mrs Arroyo, a diminutive, softly-spoken woman, will introduce a more wholesome tone to the administration.

However her sometimes cold and businesslike manner made it difficult for her to win the support of the poor who make up most of the population.

Struggle

She struggled to maintain unity in a government made up from different political factions.

Earlier this year, her foreign minister resigned over her decision to bring US troops in to help fight Islamic militants in the south.

Mr Arroyo became one of the first Asian leaders to fully support the Washington's "war on terror", allowing US troops to enter the country to train troops fighting the Abu Sayyaf - a group responsible for a rash of abductions for ransom and believed to be loosely affiliated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

But Mrs Arroyo's greatest handicap has been her inability to produce results in the areas that matter most to Filipinos -- the economy and crime.

Her government has run up a huge budget deficit largely because of its failure to collect taxes and violent crimes like bombings and kidnappings have risen sharply.

As a result, her popularity ratings are lower than several potential rivals.

By withdrawing now, she says she hopes to devote her last one and a half years in office to reviving the economy unburdened by politics. B movie actor

Mrs Arroyo, 54, came to power promising to arrest the drift towards cronyism and put the privatisation and liberalisation reforms of former President Fidel Ramos back on track.

Mrs Arroyo led calls for Mr Estrada to quit
She has also said she will ensure greater stability by basing her administration on party policies, rather than the strength of her personality.

Mrs Arroyo's route into politics was a conventional one. She started her government career with the Department of Trade and Industry where she was promoted to undersecretary by President Corazon Aquino.

In 1992, she was elected to the Senate. When re-elected in 1995, it was with the largest number of votes in any Philippines election.

Mrs Arroyo was named one of the region's most powerful women by Asiaweek magazine.

Three years later she won a landslide victory to become vice-president to Mr Estrada.

In interviews Mrs Arroyo is keen to stress her Catholic faith. "I follow my father's philosphy," she says. "Do what is good, do what is right and God will take care of the rest."


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