MANILA — The chairman of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development said on Thursday his panel will grill Manila City Vice Mayor Isko Moreno in the next panel hearing to explain the revision of the zoning policy in the granting of building permit, paving the way for the construction of the so-called Rizal Monument “photo bomber.”
In a chance interview, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, the chairman of the committee, said he will require the presence of Moreno as among the key Manila local officials who will be made to testify in the ongoing congressional inquiry pertaining to the controversial 49-story Torre de Manila condominium project of the DMCI Holdings Inc.
“The committee will include Vice Mayor Moreno among its resource persons to testify in the next hearing,” said Castelo, underscoring the importance for Moreno to explain his participation in the process that permitted DMCI to construct the project.
“We hope that he will tell everything to the best of his knowledge so that we can be enlightened why the DMCI was allowed to construct its condominium which is now an eyesore to Dr. Rizal’s monument,” Castelo stressed.
Earlier, the panel decided to invite Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim in the next hearing that will be scheduled very soon.
Castelo said former Manila Mayor-turned Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza has basis in saying that Moreno is more knowledgeable and competent to answer questions being the head of the Manila City Council.
Atienza accused Moreno of masterminding the supposed revision of the original zoning policy in the granting of building permit that prompted his successors Lim and Estrada to give necessary permits to DMCI.
“Dapat ang tanungin diyan si Vice Mayor Moreno kung bakit binago ng City Council na pinamumunuan niya ang zoning policy sa pagbibigay ng building permit,” Atienza stressed.
He also asked Moreno to explain why the new rules require contractors and developers to secure clearance from the City Council before proceeding with their projects.
Atienza lamented that the new policy is now the “subject of many complaints.”
A building permit was granted to DMCI for its Torre de Manila project after the developer had reportedly duly submitted all requirements, including an approval from the city planning office in the form of a zoning permit and was cleared of any violations under the national building code and other laws.
On Nov. 23 last year, the Manila City Council unanimously voted to suspend the building permit of developer DMCI for Torre de Manila, reportedly for violating local zoning rules and in response to the opposition of concerned citizens and heritage conservationists.
But the Manila Zoning Board of Adjustments and Appeals (MBZAA) reconsidered the suspension on Jan. 24, 2015 after DMCI appealed for an exemption to local zoning laws.
Complainants of the project stressed that part of the duty of the State is “to conserve, promote and popularize the nation’s cultural and historical heritage,” as mandated by Article XIV, Section 15 of the Philippine Constitution.
They cited several laws mandating national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) to protect national and cultural heritage sites and zones, including Republic Act No. 4846 (Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act), R.A. 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act) and R.A. 7160 (Local Government Code).
Earlier, Estrada said he is considering filing a case against Lim over the construction of the controversial Torre de Manila, after the latter accused current city officials of corruption.
Lawmakers led by Castelo, Ako Bicol Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, and Akbayan Party-list Rep. Barry Gutierrez challenged the DMCI to voluntary remove the structure that is ruining the Rizal monument.
They said the Supreme Court (SC) should order the demolition of Torre de Manila, lamenting that DMCI still proceeded on building the condominium even if the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has already ordered the suspension of Torre de Manila construction since Jan. 13, 2014 through a Cease-and-Desist Order(CDO).
Last week, the SC issued a Temporary Restraining Order on the construction of Torre de Manila.