SC allows resumption of Torre de Manila construction

MANILA-- The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday allowed the resumption of the construction of Torre de Manila condominium owned by the DMCI Project Developer Inc. located near Luneta Park.

SC spokesman Theodore Te announced the directive during summer session of the magistrates in Baguio City.

In a 9-6 vote, the SC lifted the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued in June 2015 against the construction of the building and dismissed the petition of the Knights Of Rizal (KOR) seeking the demolition of the building for supposedly ruining the view behind the monument of national hero Jose Rizal in Luneta Park.

The SC ruled that there is no law prohibiting the construction of the building and also rejected the argument of KOR that DMCI violated several laws mandating the protection and preservation of the Rizal Monument by defacing the visual corridors of the monument.

The Court dismissed the petition for mandamus for the reasons that the Court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter, the petitioners have no standing to sue and they stand to suffer no injury. Furthermore, the Court also found that there is no law that prohibits the construction of the challenged Torre de Manila. As a consequence of the judgment rendered today (Tuesday), the temporary restraining order issued by the Court is lifted,' Te read the decision penned by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Those who voted to allow the resumption of the condominium's construction are Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P.A. Sereno, Associate Justices Carpio, Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., Lucas P. Bersamin, Mariano C. Del Castillo, Bienvenido L. Reyes, Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, and Noel G. Tijam.

Those who opposed the construction are Associate Justices Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Jose C. Mendoza, and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa and Samuel R. Martires. For his part, Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza filed separate dissenting opinion.

With thus ruling, the Consunji-owned DMCI Project Developer Inc. can now continue with the construction of the 49-storey building.

The petition was filed in Sept. 2014 while the SC held oral arguments on the case in August 2015.

The KOR argued that DMCI acted in bad faith and violated zoning ordinances of the city government of Manila aside from existing guidelines on monuments when it proceeded with the construction of the controversial building.

Petitioner had cited Republic Act No. 4846 (Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act), Republic Act No. 7356 (law creating the National Commission on Culture and the Arts) and Republic Act No. 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 or an Act Providing for the Protection and Conservation of the National Cultural Heritage) as the laws violated by DMCI.

The group also noted that the Rizal Monument has been declared as a National Cultural Treasure and as such is entitled to the full protection of the law.

It will be recalled that the SC held oral arguments on the case in August 2015 and submitted it for resolution but it took the justices nearly two years before it finally resolve the case.

The project's developer has repeatedly asked the SC to resolve the case and lift the restraining order it issued in June 2015 that prevented the completion of the building, saying they are suffering losses and damages to third parties, especially the buyers of units in the condominium.

The company said it has already spent PHP1.28 billion for the construction of the building and will stand to lose about PHP4 billion in capital investments and unrealized profits if the case is not resolved and the TRO is not lifted sooner.

It also argued that contrary to the view espoused by petitioner, government heritage agencies have no jurisdiction over the building since it was built on private property outside of the Rizal Park or any heritage zone, and that the Rizal Monument was declared a national cultural treasure one year after the developer obtained all government permits and started building.

It also explained that there are no provisions in Republic Act 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, RA 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.

Sought for a comment, DMCI Homes welcomes the fair and just decision of the Supreme Court.

Moving on, we will immediately resume construction to finally end the undue suffering of our stakeholders, most especially our workers and future residents who depended on our commitment to complete the project, DMCI said in a statement.

DMCI Homes also said it will immediately advise its customers and future residents on the updated construction timeline since the initial target completion date has been critically affected by the long-standing TRO.

The company vowed to continue its thrust of providing quality homes to address the need for mid-income housing and urban renewal in the City of Manila.

For its part, the KOR respects the decision of SC on the Torre de Manila issue.

"The Order of the Knights of Rizal respects the decision of the Supreme Court on the Torre de Manila issue. We thank the public for carrying this issue with us and for making the same as a test case for Philippine Heritage for whatever the outcome would have been., the KOR said in a statement.

The public support that was expressed in favor of our stand was an indication not only of the importance of the National Monument but also to the continued relevance and reverence our National Hero, Jose Rizal still enjoys. Beyond this, may we preserve the value of our National Cultural Treasures and remain to live the Rizal Way," the KOR added.

Source: Philippines News Agency