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MANILA (Reuters) - A group of Philippine lawmakers will call for a congressional inquiry this month into a recent shopping mall fire that killed 38 people, of whom 37 worked at a call centre for an American firm, a House representative said on Friday.

The Dec. 23 blaze in Davao City, the southern hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte, broke out on the third level of a mall before its choking smoke engulfed the offices of the U.S. firm, Research Now SSI, a floor above.

Five members of the Davao City fire department, who had inspected the mall and issued permits for it to operate, were relieved of duties and face administrative investigation.

Initial checks by the Bureau of Fire Protection revealed signs of fire safety lapses that may have contributed to the tragedy, since there were problems with "exits, sprinkler systems and alarm systems".

"We are calling for an investigation in aid of legislation," Congresswoman Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, a women's group, told a news conference.

"We are filing a resolution as soon as the session starts. We will call anew the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (bill)."

The lower house of Congress will resume its session on Jan. 15.

The left-wing bloc will seek to ensure the accountability of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, the Labour Department, the Davao City government and companies involved, Brosas said.

A security officer of the New City Commercial Center shopping mall was among the 38 killed in the fire, which injured six people, although about 100 call centre employees survived.

SSI has declined to comment on the issue of fire safety at its Davao offices until the investigation is completed.

The Research Now SSI offices in Davao employ 500 people. It promised to relocate some to a bigger facility in the central Philippines while looking for a new site in the south.

On its website, SSI says it has more than 11 million panelists in 40 countries with more than 300 clients worldwide, including Twitter, Facebook, Nielsen, Capital One, BestBuy and Liberty Mutual.

(Reporting Neil Jerome Morales; Writing by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty and Clarence Fernandez)

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Reuters