Aquino on Torre de Manila: Both parties' rights should be respected

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday, September 8, that he would defer to the High Court's ruling on the fate of the controversial Torre de Manila condominium in Manila, but stressed that the rights of all must be respected.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer aired live on state-run PTV4, Aquino said he saw merit of the petition before the Supreme Court against the high-rise structure, which heritage advocates have slammed for ruining the sightline of the historic Rizal Monument.

The 49-storey residential project can be clearly seen rising behind the monument of the national hero. But the project's developer, DMCI Homes, has argued that the building was cleared by Manila city officials, and that it did not violate any heritage laws as the structure sits on private property outside the protected zone of Rizal Park.

Responding to questions, Aquino cited a rule in Paris, France, that discusses architecture and the preservation of the culture of the city.

In the case of the Rizal Monument, the President said there was merit in the petition that seeks to preserve the backdrop of the monument. But he also conceded that the rights of the real estate developer should also be respected.

"On the other hand, I have sworn to faithfully execute all the laws of the land....It seems they (DMCI) went through all the processes. Zoning is a mandate of the local government unit. At this point in time, they seem to have gotten all the permits, so how do we balance the two?" Aquino said.

He added, "That's why we eagerly await how the courts will also decide as to how to balance each and everyone's rights in this particular matter."

Last week, the High Court wrapped up hearing oral arguments on the September 2014 petition filed by the Knights of Rizal against Torre de Manila. (TIMELINE: The Torre de Manila case)

During the hearings, the Court sought to clarify issues on whether or not guidelines of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines apply to the Rizal Monument, and if the NHCP has the legal power to stop the construction of Torre de Manila.

It also sought to clarify issues on whether constitutional provisions on heritage conservation should be interpreted in a different way, and whether Manila city officials followed the rule of law when it allowed the construction of the building.