MANILA – During the fourth round of oral arguments on the Torre de Manila case, it was found out that the construction of the controversial building was reportedly allowed by the Manila City local government, violating a certain local ordinance.
Despite height limits on Taft Avenue, DM Consunji Inc.’s (DMCI) zoning permit application for the 49-storrey Torre de Manila condominium was processed and approved on June 2012 as ordered by then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.
“City Legal Officer [of Mayor Lim] further observed that the Torre de Manila is simply too far from the Rizal Monument to be a repulsive destruction. More significantly, the crucial encouragement to allow the Torre project was bolstered by Ludovico Badoy of Executive Director of NHCP on Nov. 7, 2012,” Manila City legal officer Jose Alberto Flaminiano said.
Built in the university cluster zone, the construction of the Torre de Manila violated the zoning law as only schools and government buildings were allowed in the site. Moreover, these buildings were limited to up to seven floors.
DMCI, however, would have been permitted to construct Torre de Manila if it applied for a variance from zoning restrictions but such application was not made.
“When permits were granted, there were no applications for variance? Under the rule of law, there is no exception to that,” Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza said, addressing city administration officials.
“And so if this happens under your administration now, where a city planning officer and building official gives zoning permit under the same facts, what do you call that?” Jardeleza added.
The magistrate cited Sections 60, 61 and 62 of Ordinance No. 8119 or the Manila Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Regulations of 2006. Violating this would then result to an ‘administrative liability’ and a ‘serious or grave misconduct’ against the officials when proven.
To the Manila government’s defense, they claimed to have junked the local ordinance’s limitations on heights as they ‘opted to follow the National Building Code.’
But even so, the zoning law had ‘four layers of protection’ which could not be easily bypassed. Jardeleza then pointed out that the Torre de Manila’s site was classified as a university cluster, was under the concept of historical-cultural preservation, was declared as a “Planned Unit Development/Overlay Zone,” and required a heritage impact statement upon application for a zoning permit.
“As a matter of the rule of law, can the mayor of the City of Manila, whether the then mayor or the present mayor, unilaterally suspend the four layers of protection or requirements?” he asked, stressing that the building in question was erected in a restricted site with a forbidden height.
“Because you can read Ordinance No. 8119 forward and backward, backward and forward, you are required to go through a process. If you were a city legal officer then, would you have issued such legal opinion?” he continued.