SC wraps up oral arguments on Torre de Manila case

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 01 2015 08:28 PM | Updated as of Sep 02 2015 04:34 AM

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has wrapped up its oral arguments on the petition of the Order of the Knights of Rizal (OKOR) against property developer DMCI Homes' Torre de Manila high-rise residential condominium project in Manila.

After six hearings, the high court terminated the oral arguments on Tuesday.

Tuesday's hearing focused on the presentation of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), which told the high court that it did not have the teeth to stop the 49-storey project because its Guidelines on Monuments Honoring National Heroes, Illustrious Filipinos and Other Personages cannot compel local governments to strictly obey the guidelines, rather, only have a recommendatory effect.

The guidelines seek to preserve the "prominence and dominance of monuments, partly by keeping 'vista points and visual corridors to monuments clear for unobstructed viewing appreciation and photographic opportunities.'"

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro expressed dismay at the stance the NHCP has taken on the Torre de Manila issue, specifically, the tenor of the letter of NHCP Executive Director III Ludovico Badoy, dated November 9, 2012, addressed to then Manila City Mayor Alfredo Lim, which stated that '[t]he Torre de Manila project site is outside the boundaries of the Rizal Park and well to the rear (789 meters) of the Rizal National Monument; hence it cannot possibly obstruct the front view of the said National Monument."

De Castro said Badoy's letter merely lifted portions of a letter written by his superior and NHCP chair Maria Serena Diokno that was submitted during the Senate's probe into the Torre de Manila controversy. Diokno's letter said that the front view of the monument is not the issue, but the obstruction presented by Torre de Manila on the Rizal Monument's back view.

Badoy's letter was later used as a justification of the Manila City government in granting DMCI's application for variance to height restrictions imposed on the area.

De Castro also criticized the NHCP for not taking a stronger position on the issue so as to guide the local government. The magistrate said that even if its guidelines were merely recommendatory, part of NHCP's mandate is still to provide the correct opinion to LGUs.

"It was very unfortunate because the letter of the chairman (Diokno) is very clear: they are not quarreling about the front view, the problem is the back view. Here comes Mr. Badoy saying there's no obstruction. Look what happened here, this letter of Mr. Badoy was attached to the resolution of the City of Manila. This was used as a supporting document.

"This simple thing... should've been avoided so that this issue should not have escalated the way it has escalated," De Castro said.

All parties were asked to submit their respective memoranda, while the amici curiae were also directed to submit their respective positions on the issues tackled in the oral arguments.

The case will be deemed submitted for resolution after the submission of the memoranda.