On Friday, she put words into action, declaring emergency rule after the military said it foiled a coup attempt.

Swept to power in 2001 when Joseph Estrada was ousted from the presidency by a popular revolt, the mother of three saw off a mutiny in 2003 and survived an impeachment attempt last year over allegations of vote-rigging and graft.

Arroyo, 58, an admirer of Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, was asked at a forum with foreign reporters what would make her resign. "Nothing" was her answer.

Devoutly Roman Catholic, Arroyo is intent on pushing through economic and social reforms in the Southeast Asian country and is convinced that she has right on her side.

"...Arroyo is using this occasion to impose indirectly martial rule. This is supression of all freedom"

Benito Lim, professor,
University of the Philippines 

She told the forum: "I believe I am the best person to lead this nation through this transition, I was elected to make difficult decisions and I have made them."

But groups from a wide spectrum of opinion believe Arroyo has lost her legitimacy and that the daughter of late president Diosdado Macapagal should have resigned last year over a series of scandals.

Cold and aloof

Thousands of leftists and opposition members have used this week's 20th anniversary of a "people power" revolt that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos to demonstrate against her.

Allegations that Arroyo tried to influence the vote count in the 2004 presidential election and that her husband, eldest son and brother-in-law took payoffs from illegal gambling have refused to go away.

Seen as cold and aloof, the US-trained economist has not managed to endear herself to many Filipinos.

In a visit this week to the scene of a deadly landslide in the central Philippines, Arroyo looked stiff against Imelda Marcos, the former first lady, who arrived at the same time handing out hugs and kisses.

Arroyo's father was a foreign service officer, congressman and one-term president in the early 1960s. His rule was noted for land reform and improving relations with neighbouring nations.

Arroyo has said she got a firm sense of right and wrong as a young girl running through the halls of the presidential palace.

But analysts said there was little right in her decision to impose a state of emergency.

Benito Lim, a political science professor at the University of the Philippines, said: "President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is using this occasion to impose indirectly martial rule.This is suppression of all freedom."