The discourse about the Torre de Manila condominium being an unsightly backdrop to the Rizal Monument has gone off track and on to laughable levels. Recently at a House committee hearing, Rep. Amado Bagatsing of Manila suggested that the issue may be resolved by turning around Dr. Rizal’s statue.
Not only would this remove the supposed photobomber from the background, it would also – according to Rep. Bagatsing, one of those likely candidates for mayor of Manila in 2016 – rectify historical records that branded Dr. Rizal as a traitor. Really? The congressman pointed out that Dr. Rizal opted to face his executioners, who planned on shooting him in the back. Apparently, Rep. Bagatsing would prefer as backdrop the grandstand that obstructs the world-famous sunset over Manila Bay, and a humongous flagpole that people have criticized for costing P7.8 million.
Another ridiculous idea was that photos of the monument without the condominium in the background were possible from certain angles. But why settle for limited perspectives? They might as well suggest putting the monument on a revolving base, so that Dr. Rizal would have a 360-degree vista of Manila.
However, we suspect that some people would not like a revolving statue as that might make Dr. Rizal dizzy after spinning around all day and seeing the poverty, traffic congestion and pollution in the city. Perhaps Carlos Celdran, the attention-grabbing tourist guide who dubbed the condominium as a photobomber, would be appeased by a photo wall behind the monument. This would be a hit with “epal” politicians, who would want their own mugs on a tarpaulin canvass behind our National Hero.
Seriously, there will be no shortage of inane and distracting ideas if the debate focuses mainly on aesthetics. We have heard some say that the issue has been overblown, and that they see nothing wrong with having modern buildings in the monument’s backdrop. Others might add that if Dr. Rizal were alive today, he might point out that we have bigger issues to tackle other than which direction his statue faces.
Legal issues and corruption
The bigger, if not more worthwhile, issue concerns the legality of its construction and good governance. Did D.M. Consunji Inc. (DMCI) violate any laws in the construction of Torre de Manila? And was there corruption involved in securing the permits, clearances and other documents related to this project? Obviously, these and related questions are now for the courts to decide.
If found guilty, the maximum penalties under the law should be levied against DMCI, its executives and all the public officials who were involved in this controversial project. None should be spared.
If the courts, however, rule that no laws were broken, present and past officials at the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the city government of Manila have plenty of explaining to do. Everyone involved should be investigated by the proper authorities for the oversight.
Furthermore, there ought to be a review of the laws and guidelines pertaining to the protection and preservation of historical monuments and treasures even before a ruling is handed down. And in revisiting those rules, there also needs to be a dialogue with various stakeholders that take into consideration the need for development in the capital city.
Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but we should also remember that Lady Justice is blind.