Torre case: National Cultural Heritage Act put on spotlight
IS there a violation committed by property developer DMCI in building Torre de Manila which was called in social media as the “biggest photobomber” marring the background sight line of the monument of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal?
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said “what is not prohibited by law is allowed.”
During round 3 of the oral argument, Carpio said the 1987 Constitution provision that states that the State shall conserve, promote historical, cultural heritage of the Filipino requires an implementing law.
Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 is the implementing law that requires the protection of the physical integrity, which means the structure or the building itself, but not the “background sight line.”
“Since there is no implementing law to protect the background sight line, we go back to the general principle that what is not prohibited by law is allowed otherwise there would be a violation of the due process clause that no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law,” Carpio said.
The DMCI insisted that it has secured all the necessary permits for the construction of the building.
DMCI, in its position paper, also insisted that there is no law against “photobombing.”
It noted that there is no provisions in RA 10066 (An Act Providing for the Protection and Conservation of the National Cultural Heritage); Republic Act No. 4846 otherwise known as the Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act; and Republic Act No. 7356, the law creating the National Commission for Culture and the Arts that protect the background or backdrop of any historical or cultural property.
It also denied that the building altered the physical integrity of the Rizal Monument considering that it is 870 meters away from the monument.
“In our legal system, it is the core value. It’s a foundation of our value as democratic society you must have a law before you are prohibited from doing an act because otherwise all our other freedoms, the freedoms —freedom of religion, freedom of speech would be impaired if the government can just stop it without a law authorizing it to be stopped and that law must be based on police power or some other power authorized by the Constitution,” Carpio explained.
But Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Marvic Leonen and Estela Perlas Bernabe have questions on the permits acquired by DMCI for the construction of the Torre de Manila.
Peralta wants DMCI to clarify some figures that they submitted to the Court, including the maximum allowable floor area as he questioned some of the figures submitted to them, such as the prescribed allowable area.
The Justice said there might be some violation on the part of the building developer on the zoning ordinance of Manila though DMCI lawyer Victor Lazatin insisted they have not violated any law or ordinances.
Leonen, on the other hand, asked Lazatin why it took two years after the zoning permit was issued in June 2012 before the city government of Manila approved the variance in the building construction.
“The zoning permit was issued in June 2012, pre-selling was conducted the same year and building in November 2012,” Leonen said as he asked why the variance was approved by the city council only in 2014, or two years after it was mobilized.
“I am quite worried you paid P1.135-million for a zoning permit which now appears at face value based simply on the ordinance and documents submitted to us have violated section 63 of the Zoning Ordinance,” Leonen said.
Bernabe, on the other hand asked why did DMCI started its construction without the exemption from the local government units.
With DMCI’s blueprint for the Torre de Manila project of 1,639 square meters, Lazatin earlier admitted that DMCI is actually entitled to build only a total of 18 floors without a variance from the City of Manila.
Meanwhile, Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro asked “after so many years, the statue has been there, it is only now that a company has the courage to put up a building that dwarfed all the rest of the buildings in this area.”
Lazatin said “from what I understand, it was only because of a perceived need or a project here in Manila that client DMCI decided to acquire that property and build it. There was really a demand and it was able to sell a substantial portion close to 80 to 90 percent.”
“Earning much from this project is too hard to resist for a company like DMCI,” de Castro said.
The next oral argument is scheduled for August 18 at 2 p.m.
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