-- President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo denied rigging last year's national election but apologized Monday for "a lapse in judgment" in telling a Philippine election official she wanted a million-vote victory margin.

In a nationally televised speech, Arroyo said she would not resign and appealed for unity as she addressed the three-week-old crisis about the wiretapped phone conversation. The disclosure of that phone call has prompted calls for Arroyo to resign; she has five years left in her term.

"I recognize that making any such call was a lapse in judgment," a somber Arroyo said.

"I am sorry. I also regret taking so long to speak before you on this matter. . . . I want to close this chapter and move on with the business of governing."

But opposition groups vowed to pursue protests and legal steps against her.

"This sparked many more questions than just the president admitting she was the one on the tape," Rep. Francis Escudero said. "But this is the first important step toward the country finding out the truth."

Eddie Villanueva, who finished fourth in the election, said Arroyo should call a special election. Popular action film actor Fernando Poe Jr., who finished second -- 1.1 million votes behind Arroyo -- died from a stroke in December.

Several legislative committees began hearings last week on the wiretap tapes of the conversation between Arroyo and former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, which Arroyo said occurred when the May 2004 election results already were forecast, but the final numbers had not been announced.

In the recordings, Arroyo is heard discussing with Garcillano ways to secure a million-vote margin. The government later prohibited the broadcasting of portions of the tapes, which were widely available around the country.

"I take full responsibility for my actions. To you and to all those good citizens who may have had their faith shaken by this event, I want to assure you that I have redoubled my efforts to serve the nation and earn your trust," Arroyo said.

Her spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said it was time to move on.

"There is nothing illegal here," Bunye said in a statement. "The only value in pursuing this at this point is political embarrassment. No doubt her detractors will continue to stoke the controversy for their own personal gain. But for most reasonable people, this issue is now behind us."

Opposition and leftist groups said they would not let up with street protests against Arroyo, whose popularity rating plummeted to a record low just before the scandal broke.

About 500 people attending a candlelight protest in suburban Quezon City snarled traffic by burning tires.

A Filipino protests after president acknowledged telling an election official how large she wanted her victory to be. Arroyo denies on national television that she rigged last year's vote.