Offshoot measure of Rizal photobomber controversy hurdles House panel

Published October 29, 2020, 6:58 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

The House Committee on Basic Education and Culture has approved a proposed law that would have saved Rizal Monument from its perennial “photobomber” in Torre de Manila had it been filed and enacted years ago.

Gaining the committee’s nod during a virtual hearing Thursday was the substitute bill to House Bill (HB) No.102, or the proposed Act protecting the physical integrity of a cultural property, penalizing any obstruction to its view and sightline, amending for the purpose Republic Act (RA) No.10066 otherwise known as the “National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.” 

Albay 1st district Rep. Edcel Lagman authored the measure.

Before it was passed, panel chairman Pasig City lone district Rep. Roman Romulo said the title of the bill would be changed in order to reflect cultural agencies’ inputs to the bill during a previous hearing.

“The author (Lagman) of the measure is amenable to some of the proposed suggestions of the cultural agencies. In fact he agrees with the inclusion of the phrase ‘adverse visual impact’ in the title of said measure,” Romulo said.

The tweaked title reads, “an Act protecting the physical integrity of a cultural property from adverse visual impact.” Deputy Speaker Evelina Escudero of Sorsogon moved for the approval of the substitute bill shortly after it was re-titled.

The phrase “adverse visual impact” is the direct reference to Torre de Manila, which has been described as a “constant and stationary photobomber” of Rizal Monument in the city of Manila. Dr. Jose Rizal is the de facto national hero of the Philippines.

“It is too conspicuous to be denied that the DMCI Homes tower derogates the national hero’s shrine. It obstructs the skyline even as it distracts the viewers from remembering Rizal’s heroism and martyrdom in Luneta and the dire effects of Spain’s colonial rule,” Lagman wrote in the original bill.

The then-ongoing construction of the tower caused so much ruckus that it even reached the Supreme Court. “Voting 9-6 on 25, April 2017, the Supreme Court lifted the temporary restraining order that it issued one year and seven months earlier and allowed DMCI Homes to resume the suspended construction,” Lagman recalled.

“The majority decision of the Supreme Court underscored that: ‘There is one fact that is crystal clear in this case. There is no law prohibiting the construction of the Torre de Manila due to its effect on the background, ‘view, vista, sightline, or setting’ of the Rizal Monument.’ In fact, no local ordinance whatsoever makes such prohibition,” the Bicolano wrote.

Lagman noted that the continued absence of a law that expressly prohibits the construction of such offensive structures has failed to give resolution to the controversy despite the high tribunal’s 2017 ruling.

“Hence, the imperative of a national legislation that will obviate the recurrence of the Torre de Manila issue,” said the former Minority Leader, who filed HB No.102 in July 2019.

“In this regard, this bill seeks to expressly prohibit any construction or real estate development that could ruin the view and sightline of any national shrine, monument, landmark, and other historic edifices and structures by amending Section 48 of RA 10066,” he said.

Section 48 covers the “prohibited acts” under the existing law.

Lagman said the bill also mandates the local government unit where any of the aforementioned cultural properties are located to pass an ordinance that would provide for the exact measurements of the size, height, and other relevant physical attributes of subject cultural properties in order to protect their designated views and sight-lines.

“The appropriate LGU is also authorized to condemn, demolish, and abate at the expense of the violator the offensive building or structure,” he said.