SolGen, NHCP po­si­tions on Torre de Manila con­flicted

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - NEWS - By Jerome An­ing

ON THE LAST day of oral ar­gu­ments on the case against the Torre de Manila con­do­minium, the Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion of the Philip­pines (NHCP) yesterday echoed the po­si­tion of devel­oper DMCI Homes that no law pro­tected the vis­ual cor­ri­dor or sight line of the Rizal Mon­u­ment.

The NHCP stand was in stark con­trast to the po­si­tion of So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Florin Hil­bay, who called on the Supreme Court to or­der DMCI to de­mol­ish the 49story con­do­minium be­cause it ru­ined the sight line of the Rizal Mon­u­ment and was built with un­due haste us­ing in­valid per­mits.

Last week, on the fifth round of oral ar­gu­ments on the case, Hil­bay said the Rizal Mon­u­ment was one of the most im­por­tant cul­tural trea­sures of the coun­try that the Con­sti­tu­tion re­quired the State to pro­tect and con­serve.

The So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral, who rep­re­sents the gov­ern­ment in the case filed by the Knights of Rizal against DMCI, was the lawyer of the NHCP un­til he changed his stand on the mat­ter and af­ter the NHCP hired a pri­vate lawyer.

In his open­ing re­marks, Jose Manuel Dio­kno, lawyer of the NHCP and brother of its chair, Ma. Ser­ena Dio­kno, yesterday echoed the po­si­tion of DMCI that the no law pro­tected the vis­ual cor­ri­dor or sight line of the mon­u­ment.

The Knights of Rizal and her­itage con­ser­va­tion­ists averred that the con­do­minium not only de­stroyed the view of the mon­u­ment but also des­e­crated it.

Out­side park bound­aries

Dio­kno, dean of De La Salle Univer­sity Col­lege of Law and chair of the Free Le­gal As­sis­tance Group, re­it­er­ated the NHCP po­si­tion that it could not stop the pro­ject be­cause it was out­side the park’s bound­aries and that its lo­ca­tion was not a his­tor­i­cal or cul­tural site.

The NHCP could pro­tect only the mon­u­ment’s “phys­i­cal in­tegrity,” which, he said, should not be de­fined as an art term but its plain mean­ing, which is the ma­te­rial body of the struc­ture.

“The NHCP’s ju­ris­dic­tion comes in only when the phys­i­cal in­tegrity of mon­u­ment is in dan­ger of be­ing de­stroyed,” Dio­kno said.

Rizal’s wish

The lawyer also re­minded the court that Jose Rizal did not want to be glo­ri­fied af­ter his death, based on one of his letters which said he wanted to be buried at Paang Bun­dok (now Manila North Ceme­tery) with his grave fenced in and marked by a sim­ple cross and a tombstone.

Dio­kno said Rizal would have been con­founded by the Torre de Manila con­tro­versy, adding “I can hear him say­ing that we have much more big­ger prob­lems [to at­tend to].”

Jus­tice Fran­cis Jardeleza, the as­signed writer of the main opin­ion in the case, pointed out that the NHCP, in a po­si­tion pa­per sent the Se­nate, had agreed that Torre de Manila “vis­ually ob­structs” the view of the mon­u­ment.

NHCP Chair Dio­kno said that the agency came out with guide­lines on how to con­serve mon­u­ments and that it was up to the lo­cal gov­ern­ment units to en­act or­di­nances on how such con­ser­va­tion could be made.

She added that had Torre de Manila been erected one, 2 or even 3 kilo­me­ters away from its present po­si­tion, it would still have ob­structed the view of the mon­u­ment.

Eva­sive an­swer

Jus­tice Tere­sita Leonardo-de Cas­tro said that when DMCI and Manila City Hall asked the NHCP about its opin­ion on the mat­ter of sight lines and vis­ual cor­ri­dor, it should have ren­dered one in­stead of pro­vid­ing an “eva­sive an­swer.”

De Cas­tro said the NHCP’s dec­la­ra­tion that it had no au­thor­ity to set­tle the con­tro­versy as the place was a pri­vate prop­erty and not a his­tor­i­cal or cul­tural spot was used by DMCI to seek its build­ing per­mit and by City Hall to grant DMCI ex­cep­tion to the zon­ing or­di­nance pro­hibit­ing com­mer­cial build­ings in the area.

“Your opin­ion would have had an per­sua­sive ef­fect. You should have said some­thing. That is what they were ex­pect­ing from you. If you ren­dered it the same way you sent to the Se­nate, the prob­lem would not have es­ca­lated,” De Cas­tro said.


The jus­tice said the NHCP was to be blamed for what she branded as “mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion” and “in­ef­fi­cient way of deal­ing with the sit­u­a­tion.”

De Cas­tro told the NHCP chief that the “is­sue about the back­ground was raised be­fore your com­mis­sion but you did not deal with it. You had a very clear idea of what the is­sue is about— the back­ground [ view].”

His­tor­i­cal back­ground

Other jus­tices dwelt on the his­tor­i­cal back­ground of the mon­u­ment.

Jus­tice An­to­nio Car­pio pointed out that the gov­ern­ment had planned to con­struct a Jose Rizal Cul­tural Cen­ter right be­hind the mon­u­ment in prepa­ra­tion for the hero’s birth cen­te­nary in 1961.

Car­pio also said that the mon­u­ment seemed to be fac­ing the wrong way, be­cause Rizal had wanted to face east fac­ing the fir­ing squad be­cause he did not want to face west and be shot in the back like a traitor.

“We still deny him his dy­ing wish. We re­fused his writ­ten re­quest,” Car­pio said.

The jus­tice also ques­tioned the his­tor­i­cal value of the lo­ca­tion of the mon­u­ment, since it was later es­tab­lished that the site of ex­e­cu­tion ac­tu­ally lay about 100 me­ters north.

Jus­tice Mar­vic Leo­nen, for his part, ob­served that “we are quar­rel­ing about a mon­u­ment that Rizal did not want.”

“When the Con­sti­tu­tion says con­serve or pro­mote, it can also mean that we should grant Rizal his dy­ing wishes so that our peo­ple know that our he­roes need to be hum­ble, that lead­ers should not have mark­ers or bill­boards and should not be epal [at­ten­tion hound] be­cause that is some­body we should em­u­late,” Leo­nen added.

Boni­fa­cio Mon­u­ment

Chief Jus­tice Ma. Lour­des Sereno asked Dio­kno about the con­struc­tion done around na­tional mon­u­ments, such as the Boni­fa­cio Mon­u­ment in Caloocan City, the Edsa Shrine in Pasig City and the Ni­noy Aquino Mon­u­ment on Ayala Av­enue in Makati City.

The Chief Jus­tice said she also wanted to know how other coun­tries treated their na­tional mon­u­ments, es­pe­cially those in “con­gested ur­ban set­tings.”

“How do her­itage sites and cities live side by side?” she asked, or­der­ing the NHCP to re­ply to her query in its mem­o­ran­dum.

To­ward the end of the oral ar­gu­ments, Jardeleza re­minded the NHCP that its pre­de­ces­sor, the Na­tional His­tor­i­cal In­sti­tute (NHI), de­clared Rizal Park a na­tional his­tor­i­cal site in 1995 be­cause not only Rizal but also about 100 more he­roes and mar­tyrs who fought against Spain dur­ing the Philip­pine Revo­lu­tion died there.

Jardeleza said the NHI it­self said that the park, known as Bagum­bayan dur­ing the Span­ish times, was a “revered his­tor­i­cal site strongly as­so­ci­ated with the ideals of lib­erty and strug­gle for free­dom of the Filipino peo­ple sanc­ti­fied by history and tra­di­tion.

The jus­tices heard the side of Ma. Ser­ena Dio­kno af­ter they fin­ished their in­ter­pel­la­tion of Hil­bay.

Sereno ended the sixth round of oral ar­gu­ments around 4:15 p.m., in­struct­ing the coun­sels of var­i­ous par­ties as well as the amici cu­riae (friends of the court) to sub­mit their re­spec­tive mem­o­randa on the case within 20 days.

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