A noticeable absence of integrity


THIS week’s decision by the Supreme Court to order at least a temporary halt to the construction of the controversial Torre de Manila was a disturbing development for several different reasons, not the least of which is the message it sends about the state of public ethics in this country.

The Torre de Manila, tagged the “photobomber” of the Rizal Monument in Rizal Park which the new condominium block overlooks, sparked outrage among heritage advocates for spoiling the view. Claims have also been made that the project violates a number of zoning and safety regulations. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a petition filed principally by the Knights of Rizal group, and ordered construction halted pending a permanent resolution by the Court.

The building, which has been under construction for a little longer than two years, has risen to a height of 30 stories out of 49 planned and would, if not interrupted by the SC’s temporary restraining order, be completed sometime next year. The construction and property conglomerate DMCI, the tower’s developer, was originally granted a building permit by the City of Manila in June 2012. Construction was actually ordered suspended by the city at one point and the original applications and permits subjected to a review by the office of Mayor Joseph Estrada (the original approval was granted by the administration of former mayor and implacable Estrada foe Alfredo Lim), but were apparently found to be in order, allowing the project to resume.

“The controversy over the Torre de Manila project is an embarrassing example of the inattentiveness of those whose jobs or chosen advocacies involve the public’s interest. “

It has been correctly pointed out that, if nothing else, the controversy over the Torre de Manila project is an embarrassing example of the inattentiveness of those whose jobs or chosen advocacies involve the public’s interest. Eighty-meter tall concrete monoliths do not spring from the Earth overnight, and the time in which questions about the propriety of the project has passed.

While the questions raised by the project’s detractors are significant issues that must be clearly resolved one way or another, the solution – if the detractors are correct – will exceed the public cost of allowing it to be completed. DMCI will incur a big loss, of course, but the bigger – and we sincerely hope unintended – consequences are the loss of several hundred jobs, losses for a whole network of suppliers and ancillary businesses, and a loss of a considerable amount of tax revenue.

However the controversy over the Torre de Manila is eventually resolved, the case should serve as a moral lesson: When people and organizations do not act with integrity, the results are costly and damaging to everyone. Integrity is manifested, for example, when a property developer engages with the surrounding community at the planning stage. It is manifested when a city government first of all understands, and then consistently enforces the same rules for everyone, regardless if the applicant is DMCI or Jun the Karpintero. Integrity is manifested when civil society and other public interest watchdogs actually commit themselves to the calling, and help to guide policy by being attentive and engaged.

None of those things happened, unfortunately, and as a result the Torre de Manila controversy has become another in which any outcome will bring unacceptable harm to someone. It is a self-inflicted injury, and could have easily been avoided if anyone involved had acted with a little more integrity.


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  1. Leodegardo Pruna on

    The NHCP under its present head does not seem to understand what its work is. In fact even in small issues, such as establishing historical dates in the founding of towns and municipalities, the NHCP cannot decide even if review and studies were extensively done as of the case of one town whose founding date was 1712. The NHCP head and staff have become redundant and should be dismissed or retired. God bless the Philippines.

  2. Sen. Pia Cayetano warned DMCI a year ago that they could face demolition but DMCI still proceeded with the construction. So DMCI has to face the consequences. But it’s no big deal because D. M. Consunji is among the 10 richest in the Philippines. No one ought to feel sorry for DMCI’s predicament. They took a gamble and ignored previous earnest appeals to their sense of patriotism.

    • jose btaganahan on

      Sen. Pia Cayetano is not the LAW and if DMCI followed the Laws in constructing Torre de Manila and was given the necessary building permits then the constructed building should not be demolished.

  3. Spare me all the HYPOCRISY. What does Luneta and its immediate surroundings really speak of? PROSTITUTION would be the familiar ring describing this areas, Ermita, Malate, Mabini, for crying out loud had our government officials really take into practice the advocacy of Dr. Jose Rizal then Manila would be really be basking in glory like Paris, London, Rome, and other famous cities. Does the middle class even bring their children to Luneta? Unless its a school field trip. At least the tower would somehow show some semblance of improvement or Manila is really progressing. Just continue the project and let the contractual workers even for 6 months have a decent job!

  4. juancho ramas on

    if Torre de Manila is to be demolished, DMCI will surely take down with him all those who ACCEPTED BRIBES in order for the structure to be put up in the first place! My fearless forecast is no demolition will take place with finger pointing taking its place till kingdom come!

  5. A solomonic solution should be made in this controversy. The torre building has been build and it cost a lot of money that if the tower is destroyed opportunity on all stakeholders is lost. My unsolicited advise. Transfer the Rizal monument on the other side of the road where it will face East and the background is the Quirino grandstand. It was known from the Philippine history that Rizal is to be killed by firing squad with his back (fronting west or the sea) against the trigger but eventually turn around to faced the bullets to the east. So it is only fitting that the monument should be placed fronting east or directly fronting the Torre de manila. The concrete carabaos and the 0 marker on the opposite road should swap places with the Rizal monument. By then, this transfer will only costs little money in which DMCI will shoulder all the costs including beautification and rehabilitation work on the propose site of the new Rizal monument just across it’s present site. Viola a solomonic solution.

  6. All because most people in leadership positions in the government do not have functioning brains.

  7. Correct. We seem to have too many projects started without any other thought except it is good for me. These projects are steamrollered before anyone can see what is going on.

  8. Jojo G. Castro on

    Everyone has a cop-out reason, from the two old senior mayors pointing fingers at each other, a historical commission approving the project, a city ordinance revised to suit the whim of the builder, and a SC belatedly issuing a TRO when the Torre already has reached towering heights. Forget integrity, forget culture, forget a national hero. National identity takes the back burner for a few jobs to make the ends meet, to collect real estate taxes for a drowning city running out of ideas, and a conglomerate pitting government officials against each other, all the while snickering in private. This is how Manila mirrors the Philippines. This is why the people has gone numb and just plods along the wheel of life. It is not fun nor funny anymore.

  9. Alejo Rosete on

    Rizal Monument should prevail over the Tower.
    Demolish the Tower.

    Mabuhay ang Pilipinas
    Mabuhay si Dr. Jose Rizal