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2K Torre de Manila workers in limbo

Towering over Rizal Monument at Rizal Park, the controversial 46-story Torre de Manila, described by opponents as an eyesore around the skyline of a heritage site, is almost complete. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court finally acted, issuing a temporary restraining order on its construction.  MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Towering over Rizal Monument at Rizal Park, the controversial 46-story Torre de Manila, described by opponents as an eyesore around the skyline of a heritage site, is almost complete. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court finally acted, issuing a temporary restraining order on its construction. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

The sign put it bluntly: “To all Torre de Manila workers: Work suspended—DMCI Homes Management.”

The message greeted laborers Wednesday morning at the controversial condominium project in Manila, signaling their employer’s compliance with the Supreme Court order temporarily halting work on the so-called “photobomber’’ or scene spoiler marring the view of nearby Rizal Park.

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While critics of the DMCI project hailed the court order, the workers said they faced uncertainty over their next take-home pay. A 40-year-old elevator technician, who said he was just on his first day of work, found himself standing idly with others awaiting word from management.

“We are supposed to start working on the elevators today. But instead we got this,” said the man, who asked not to be named as he pointed to the tarpaulin sign.

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“I’m earning only the minimum wage and we’re being paid by the day. We’re surprised by this announcement and I don’t know where I’ll get the money to feed my family today,” another worker said.

They were just two of the estimated 2,000 workers, some coming from as far as Quezon province, whose jobs are now in limbo after the SC issued the temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by the Knights of Rizal against Torre, a 49-story structure approved by the city government despite objections raised by heritage advocates.

Speaking through megaphones, the supervisors ordered the laborers and technicians to form a straight line before entering the building—not to resume their work but to get the tools or personal belongings they may have inside.

But according to Benigno Garcia, a 43-year-old mason, they have been assured by their supervisors that they would be transferred to other DMCI projects.

At City Hall, officials defending the administration of Mayor Joseph Estrada washed their hands of the questionable issuance of permits that allowed DMCI to start building Torre three years ago.

“The zoning and building permits acquired by DMCI Homes for Torre de Manila were issued during the previous administration,” said Councilor Joel Chua, chair of the council’s oversight committee. He was referring to the term of then Mayor Alfredo Lim.

“When we investigated it under the current (Estrada) administration, DMCI submitted a position paper saying they were made to believe that the permits issued to them were valid and according to the process,’’ Chua said.

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But he also recalled that DMCI sought an “exemption” from local zoning laws before the Manila Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals, particularly from the seven-story height limit for residential structures located in that area along Taft

Avenue.

DMCI secured an exemption from the height limit in early 2014, after a lengthy investigation by the council during Estrada’s term. Construction has since gone into full swing.

The clamor against Torre was initiated online by cultural activist Carlos Celdran when the project was still being advertised in 2012. When the TRO was finally issued by the SC, the structure was already more than 40 floors high.

Chua said the city government would be ready to comply with the Supreme Court’s final ruling on the matter.

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TAGS: condo project, DMCI Homes Management, DMCI project, Photobomber, Rizal Park, Supreme Court, Torre de Manila
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