NCCA exec to Torre lawyer: ‘If people defy us, we must seek arrest warrants’
The builders of the controversial Torre de Manila condominium may face arrest for their apparent defiance of the cease and desist (CDO) order issued two weeks ago by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), which sought to stop the project amid complaints that it was ruining the view of Rizal Park.
In a hearing called Wednesday by the NCCA and attended by a legal counsel for DMCI Homes, the agency was formally informed by its own lawyer that work continued on the planned 49-story condo on Taft Avenue despite the CDO, which the agency served at the site on Jan. 13.
“Please understand that [the NCCA] is a duly constituted agency of the government. What we do here is not a joke. If people defy us, then we must seek warrants of arrests against them,” hearing officer George Ahmed Paglinawan told DMCI counsel Leonid Nolasco.
“Please advise your client to respect us a little bit before we go on and invoke the stronger arm of the government,” Paglinawan said, adding that the NCCA would soon conduct an ocular inspection of the site.
“We will be sending deputized personnel only to check whether there is violation of the temporary CDO. If there is construction there, we will look at the facts and will report this to the NCCA board,” he said.
In the same hearing, DMCI submitted a lengthy comment opposing the CDO and questioning the NCCA’s jurisdiction, saying the order to stop construction was issued without due process and violated the company’s right to develop a piece of land it owns.
The comment was prepared by Roel Pacio, DMCI Homes vice president for legal, permits and tax management.
Trixie Angeles, the lawyer for the NCCA, said she had a video taken of the Torre work site on Jan. 20, showing that construction was still in progress.
Viewed by the Inquirer after the hearing, the clip showed one of two visible construction cranes lifting a concrete mixer to the uppermost floor so far completed.
Asked to confirm whether DMCI workmen had stopped construction after receiving the CDO, Nolasco maintained that “I don’t have personal knowledge about it. I’ve never visited the site.’’
He pointed out that he represents DMCI only in the NCCA hearings and in the case filed against the project by the Knights of Rizal in the Supreme Court.
The Knights, a group promoting the legacy of national hero Dr. José Rizal, filed a petition in September last year to seek Torre’s demolition.
The campaign to stop the project was initiated online by cultural activist and tour guide Carlos Celdran in 2012. Torre secured permits from the Manila city government under then Mayor Alfredo Lim and came under scrutiny in the council early in the term of incumbent Mayor Joseph Estrada, who eventually gave it the go-signal to proceed with the construction.
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