Jose Rizal probably would not have minded buildings being constructed behind his monument in Luneta—in fact, Rizal would not have wanted a monument in his honor at all.

These were the sentiments expressed by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) during the sixth and final oral arguments on a petition seeking the demolition of DMCI Homes’ 49-storey Torre de Manila condominium rising within the monument’s visual corridor.

Facing the magistrates, NHCP legal counsel Jose Manuel Diokno in his speech said Rizal himself had indicated in a letter to his sister that he did not want his death to be glorified and that he only wanted a simple tomb.

“Jose Rizal would not want to be glorified after his death, based on his letter to his sister. All he asked for was a stone or a fence,” said Diokno, dean of the De La Salle University College of Law.

He added that he could imagine Rizal being “confounded” and saying that the country “has much bigger problems” to focus on than securing that his monument’s vista is free from obstruction.

However, during interpellation, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio noted that Rizal apparently also did not get his dying wish of facing east, toward the firing squad.

“Right now, the Rizal Monument is facing west. We still deny him his dying wish, right?” Carpio asked NHCP chairperson Dr. Maria Serena Diokno, who agreed.

After Dr. Diokno cited the Bonifacio Monument as another monument surrounded by buildings, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno also cited other monuments surrounded by structures, such as the Ninoy Aquino monument at Ayala Triangle in Makati and the EDSA Shrine beside Robinsons Galleria in Quezon City.

“I myself am taken aback that [the EDSA Shrine] was built beside a mall, but no one has complained,” said Dr. Diokno.

Diokno also said that sight lines are not protected either under the Constitution or international charters on heritage conservation.

Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, representing the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, had earlier insisted that though not explicitly stated in the Charter and conservation laws, sight lines and vistas are constitutionally protected.