THE Supreme Court is expected to resolve the controversial case involving the Torre de Manila condominium that destroys the iconic sight line of the monument of national hero Jose Rizal at the sprawling bayside Luneta Park.
During its first summer en banc session in Baguio City this year, the magistrates will rule on the petition filed by the Knights of Rizal in September 2014 seeking to demolish the residential project of the Consunji-owned DMCI Project Developer Inc.
The Torre de Manila case is among those included in the top agenda of the 15-member bench after its deliberations were reset last month.
The DMCI has been asking the SC to resolve the case and lift the temporary restraining order it issued on the completion of the 49-story building in June 2015, citing business losses and damages to third parties —especially buyers of units in the condominium.
The developer argued the government heritage agencies have no jurisdiction over Torre de Manila 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 construction of the building.
The DMCI insisted “no existing law or ordinance mandates a sightline, which is defined as the straight line along which an observer has an unobstructed vision, or a visual corridor, which is defined as an architectural opening or transportation corridor in the cityscape that frames a natural or cultural scenic feature, or even a vista point, which is defined as a more or less distant view through or along an avenue or opening, particularly one that applies to the Rizal Monument or other monuments.”
It also stressed it stood to incur losses amounting to P4.27 billion in capital investments and unrealized profits, including the P1.28 billion it already spent for the construction of the condominium as of May 2015, should the Court grant the petition.
It also warned that granting the petition would create a dangerous precedent and result in “economic havoc,” citing high-rise buildings that surround most of the monuments in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
Last February, the KOR asked the SC to order the inspection of the building to determine whether or not the developer violated the TRO, citing “persistent reports that finishing touches in the interiors of Torre de Manila are continuing and/or are nearly finished, if not already finished, by this time.”
The DMCI already denied the allegation.
In its petition, the KOR alleged that by defacing the visual corridors of the monument, DMCI violated several laws mandating the protection and preservation of the Rizal Monument.
These laws include 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).
Petitioners also argued the project could be considered as an act of nuisance as defined under the Civil Code of the Philippines.
Article 694 of the law provides that “a nuisance is any act, omission, establishment, condition of property, or anything else which “annoys or offends the senses; or shocks, defies or disregards decency or morality.”
They pointed out the project also violated the zoning ordinance of the City of Manila, which they also accused of violating Republic Act No. 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009) and Ordinance No. 8119 in issuing permit for the building.
After holding oral arguments on the case in August 2015, the SC submitted it for resolution after submission of memoranda by parties a month after.