The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) could claim a moral victory in the Torre de Manila controversy when its power to issue cease-and-desist orders (CDO) in the name of heritage conservation was upheld by the courts.
On May 22, 2018, Judge Encarnacion Jaja Moya of Branch 146 of the Makati Regional Trial Court dismissed the suit of DMCI Homes and DMCI Project Developers, developers of Torre de Manila, against the NCCA, claiming P27 million in damages.
The DMCI firms said the CDO issued by then NCCA chair Felipe de Leon Jr. to stop the construction of Torre de Manila in 2015 tarnished their reputation and caused them considerable financial loss.
They said De Leon issued the CDO in “gross and evident bad faith.”
The CDO was issued after mounting protests especially by the Order of the Knights of Rizal (OKR) and other heritage groups that the 49-story condominium was a photobomber and marred the skyline of the Rizal Monument on Rizal Park.
OKR in fact had filed a petition with the Supreme Court to stop the construction.
But the Supreme Court in April 2017 lifted its injunction and said there was no law to prohibit the construction.
Although the DMCI firms had filed their petition in 2015, its hearings were suspended because of the Supreme Court case.
In her decision, Moya said De Leon did not act in bad faith or was ill-willed in issuing the CDO.
Moya said De Leon and the NCCA did not act in excess of their authority.
“As a general rule,” said Moya, “public officers are not liable for damages… arising from the just performance of official duties.”
“An officer who acts within his authority to administer the affairs of the office which he/she heads is not liable for damages that may have been caused to another, as it would virtually be a charge against the Republic, which is not amenable to judgment for monetary claims without its consent.”
Moya added DMCI had failed to provide evidence that the NCCA was motivated by bad faith or ill will in issuing the CDO. —CONTRIBUTED