Pia Cayetano working on bill to prevent another ‘Rizal photobomber’

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The Torre de Manila under construction seen behind the Rizal Monument

MANILA, Philippines — Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano said she is working on a bill that will ensure “full protection” for the country’s national heritage sites amid the Supreme Court decision allowing the construction of the Torre de Manila, also known as the “Rizal photobomber.”

Cayetano said her bill would seek to preserve and protect not only the physical integrity but also the “visual corridors” of heritage sites “so this (Torre de Manila) does not happen again.”

The high rise building’s construction has stirred intense debate because many see it as a desecration of the monument to national hero Jose Rizal at the Luneta Park, behind which it towers, thus the derisive “photobomber” nickname.

“With the Supreme Court’s recent decision, it looks like the so-called ‘Pambansang Photobomber’ will forever cast a long and dark shadow over the Rizal Monument,” Cayetano, who led the 2014 inquiry into the construction of Torre de Manila when she was a senator, said.

“This brings much sadness to me and heritage advocates because it degrades the sacredness of the Rizal Monument. After being the centerpiece of the historic Luneta landscape for more than a century, the shrine built in honor of our national hero will now have to share the iconic skyline of Rizal Park with a towering condominium,” she added.

The lawmaker said the issues raised by those opposing the construction of the structure have brought to people’s consciousness the importance of protecting and preserving the country’s cultural heritage and historical landmarks.

“I remain hopeful that this will make people and government officials more vigilant and responsible when it comes to preserving these sites,” she said.

The high court’s decision dismissed the petition of the Order of the Knights of Rizal against the construction of the Torre de Manila.

Voting 9-6, the justices said there is no law prohibiting the building of the condominium tower by DM Consunji Inc.

The Knights of Rizal alleged that DMCI Homes acted in bad faith and violated Manila’s zoning ordinance and other laws as well as existing guidelines on monuments, among them Republic Act 7356 (law creating the National Commission on Culture and the Arts), Republic Act 4846 (Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act) and Republic Act 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009 or an Act Providing for the Protection and Conservation of the National Cultural Heritage).

Under the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, cultural properties are protected against exportation, modification or demolition, unless otherwise declared by a pertinent cultural agency.