Photobomb at Rizal monument
NINE months after the Knights of Rizal petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the construction of Torre de Manila, a 49-story building at the back of the monument of Jose Rizal at Luneta, the tribunal ordered the building contractor, DMCI Project Developers Inc., to temporarily cease work on the project.
The building has been described by netizens as “Terror de Manila” and “Pambansang Photobomb” because it obstructs and distracts the visual corridor of the iconic monument.
DMCI claims the project complies with all building and environmental requirements. It said the “photobomb” accusation was exaggerated because a photo of the monument can be taken without the building in the background by taking the shot from a diagonal angle.
Although both sides invoked legal arguments in support of their respective positions, the issue may be reduced to a conflict between historical values and commercial objectives.
The Knights of Rizal want the Rizal monument treated with the same high degree of respect and honor that other countries give to memorials to their national heroes.
Judging from DMCI’s statements, it simply looks at the project as a business activity that forms part of the real estate development programs of the DMCI group of companies.
If the Torre de Manila contractor were a company that is not as prestigious as DMCI, it would be easy to understand (but necessarily condone) the brush-off of the widespread opposition to the construction.
The building is in the heart of Manila. It would be attractive to people who have their businesses in the commercial district or students who study in the schools in the area.
Thus, the building has the potential to be a money maker for a developer trying to make its mark in the real estate industry or needs to shore up its coffers.
But the Torre de Manila developer is none of that. It is part of the DMCI group that, per its website, “has constructed the largest number of commercial establishments, high-rise offices and residential condominiums and infrastructure projects in the Philippines, as it has literally created today’s Makati Central Business and Ortigas Center financial districts, and continues to do so.”
On top of its profitable construction business, the group is engaged, by itself or in partnership with other companies, in mining, water supply, power generation, toll operation and other related businesses.
The conglomerate is oozing with money so much so that its founder, David Consunji, is in this year’s Forbes’ list as one of 10 richest Filipinos based on the value of his DMCI stocks.
The aggregate value of and expected profits from Torre de Manila would probably be a drop in the bucket of the treasure chest of the conglomerate.
Thus, DMCI can afford to forgo its construction without suffering a hiccup in its bottom line.
So it’s a puzzler why DMCI insists on constructing the “photobomber” despite strong public opposition.
Its stubborn stance (which has assumed emotional dimensions for Filipino nationalists) has diminished the esteem that many of our countrymen have for the name DMCI.
The way things are turning out, this controversy is being perceived by many of our countrymen as, to use street language, a matter of pera, pera lang (or all about money).
In a way, DMCI cannot be faulted for insisting on the construction and development of Torre de Manila. Its board is obliged to maximize the returns on the investments of its stockholders through all legal means possible.
But while profit is the underlying objective of all business activities, it should not be treated as the end all and be all of its existence.
The profit motive should co-exist with “corporate social responsibility” (also called corporate conscience) where a business “engages in actions that appear to further some social good, beyond the interests of the firm and that which is required by law.”
Under this concept, business is encouraged to have a positive impact on the environment, consumers, employees, investors, communities and others.
DMCI has the opportunity to demonstrate that corporate conscience in this situation.
While it is true Torre de Manila is outside the territorial boundaries of the national park, it cannot be denied it lies within the visual corridor of the Rizal monument.
No matter how you look at it, a box-like 49-story building detracts from the panoramic view of the country’s tribute to its national hero. The monument is virtually reduced to a silhouette or front décor of Torre de Manila. That is no way to treat the final resting place of the Great Malayan.
It’s good the Supreme Court assumed jurisdiction over this case and did not refer it to the Court of Appeals or a regional trial court for further handling. The action shaves off at least two years from the usual length of time it takes to resolve cases of this nature.
Had a court of lower standing issued the restraining order, DMCI would most likely appeal it to a higher court to stymie or delay its enforcement and continue with the construction.
Based on the pleadings filed by the contending parties, the tribunal is convinced there was merit in the petition and therefore the construction should be temporarily stopped otherwise the relief sought may become moot.
It’s going to be an uphill fight for DMCI, both on the legal front and in the bar of public opinion. It has to convince the tribunal that the legal basis of its construction overrides, among others, the historical and nationalistic considerations that the Knights of Rizal have cited in their petition.
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