Philippine lawmakers want inquiry into new scandal

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MANILA, Oct 16 (Reuters) Political opponents of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo asked the two houses of Congress today to investigate reports that large sums of cash were distributed to her allies after a meeting last week.

In separate resolutions, the minority bloc in both the Senate and House of Representatives said they wanted to determine whether cash gifts of 4,545 dollar-11,363 dollar allegedly given to administration lawmakers and local officials were tied to an impeachment case against Arroyo.

''No matter where you look at it, the timing and the context of where the money was given showed that it was meant to be a bribe,'' Senator Panfilo Lacson told reporters.

Arroyo's spokesman Ignacio Bunye said: ''We cannot comment since we have no first hand knowledge of such allegations.'' A cabinet member said it was possible the money could have been to assist the completion of local projects.

Three lawmakers have said they received cash ''gifts'' after a breakfast meeting with the president at the Malacanang presidential palace last week, where her impeachment case was discussed.

About 200 people were at the meeting.

Two governors, including a Roman Catholic priest who was elected in Arroyo's home province, also said they got 500,000 pesos after a separate meeting with the president on the same day last week.

It is the latest in a string of scandals surrounding Arroyo.

Last month, Arroyo's husband was named in a kickback scandal involving a multi-million dollar broadband project and his golfing friend -- the head of the elections commission -- quit his job.

Last week a senior official of Arroyo's political party, Kampi, was fired after he allegedly offered bribes to opposition lawmakers to support a weak impeachment complaint against her, shielding her for at least 12 months from any similar motion.

REUTERS GL PM1714

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