NCCA to DMCI: P20M Torre de Manila lawsuit 'ridiculous'

MANILA, Philippines – "Ridiculous."

This was how the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) described the P20-million lawsuit of DMCI Homes against the state agency's cease and desist order (CDO) on the construction of the controversial Torre de Manila in January.

"It's ridiculous. DMCI never stopped construction when we issued the CDO last January. Construction was at 30% when we issued the order, obviously it's more than 30% now," Trixie Cruz-Angeles, NCCA legal counsel on the Torre de Manila case, said in a phone interview with Rappler on Wednesday, July 8.

DMCI is seeking over P20 million in damages from the NCCA over the CDO it had issued against the construction of the property in January.

Angeles said DMCI had filed a motion for reconsideration with the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 146.

In filing the motion, DMCI is again questioning NCCA's jurisdiction in stopping the construction of the 46-storey residential building, which heritage advocates have slammed for ruining the view of the historic Rizal Monument. 

Angeles told Rappler that DMCI claimed "abuse of discretion" in the issuance of the CDO to have the case reinstated.

"They filed the case alleging abuse of discretion in issuance of the CDO. They claimed that the mere allegation of damage is sufficient to grant jurisdiction to the RTC," Angeles said.

But she reiterated that DMCI's petition did not have merit because the real estate developer refused to stop construction despite the CDO.

On January 5, the NCCA ordered DMCI to stop the Torre de Manila project, pointing out that the project “destroys or significantly alter” the view of the historic Rizal Shrine.

Citing the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, the NCCA said that the Rizal National Monument, Rizal Fountain, Rizal Park, and the Execution Site are “cultural property characterized as built heritage.”

DMCI filed a petition with the Makati RTC in February, claiming that the NCCA did not have the authority to stop the construction of Torre de Manila.

The Makati court, however, dismissed the petition and upheld the quasi-judicial nature of the NCCA, which allows the agency to issue orders "on issues of cultural importance" following its mandate to "uphold, preserve, and conserve national cultural heritage and properties."

In June, the Supreme Court stopped the construction of the controversial high-rise building.

Last week, DMCI released a statement defending the project, saying the developer obtained the proper documents and clearances to begin work on the condominium.

Responding to criticism that the high-rise building "photobombs" the Rizal Monument, the company pointed out that the housing project is situated 800 meters behind the monument.

"Finding good and unobstructed angles when taking photos of, or with, the monument could be easily done," DMCI said.

DMCI also reiterated that they did not violate heritage laws, and was even issued clearance by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines in November 2012. Rappler.com