Cayetano couple 'fooling people' in Congress bids – lawyer

MANILA, Philippines – Spouses Alan Peter and Lani Cayetano "are fooling the people" by running in two separate congressional districts when they claim to live in one residence, said the lawyer in petitions to stop the Cayetano couple from running for Congress.

Former foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano is running for congressman of Taguig City's 1st District, while Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano is running for congresswoman of the same city's 2nd District. 

Petitioner Leonides Buac Jr wants the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to cancel the certificates of candidacy (COCs) of the Cayetano couple because they declared different addresses in their COCs, casting doubt on these documents' truthfulness. 

Alan Peter Cayetano had said he resides in Barangay Bagumbayan in Taguig, while Lani Cayetano had said she is a resident of Barangay Fort Bonifacio – even as the spouses said they live in Unit 352-A Two Serendra in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

Buac's lawyer, Emil Marañon III, appeared in a hearing before the Comelec 2nd Division on Monday, February 4, on the Cayetano couple's case. 

"Very clear na niloloko ng mag-asawang Alan at Lani Cayetano ang taumbayan (It's very clear that spouses Alan and Lani Cayetano are fooling the people)," Marañon told reporters in an interview after the hearing.

Marañon added that the practice of having husband and wife running in different districts is becoming common practice. "We want Comelec to come up with a definite ruling, ano ba talaga, puwede o hindi (what's the real deal, is this allowed or not)?" 

Marañon reiterated their argument that the "family home" where a couple lives, is their residence for the purposes of elections. 

"Ang sinasabi sa batas, kung saan ka nakatira, doon ka dapat tumakbo. Ang nangyayari dito, nakatira daw sila sa iisang lugar pero tumatakbo sa magkaibang distrito. For us very problematic 'yon at saka may problema 'yon sa batas," he said.

(What the law says is that where you live is where you should run. What happened here is that they supposedly live in one place, but they're running in different districts. For us that's very problematic, and that has a problem in relation to the law.)

Lawyer Bernadette Sardillo, who represents two other petitioners against Lani Cayetano, meanwhile said in Monday's hearing that the Cayetanos have employed a "clever exploitation of the law."

Cayetano lawyer: 'But that's the law'

The Cayetanos' lawyer, George Garcia, however said there is no doubt that spouses can have different domiciles, even if the law obliges them to live in only one conjugal residence.

In a separate interview with reporters, Garcia explained that a residence is only a "place of abode," and one can own many residences, according to the Supreme Court. 

On the other hand, a person can only have one "domicile," to which a person can always return and find one's roots. "Itong domicile, kahit ano'ng mangyari, umalis ka man, mawala ka man, mag-asawa ka man, lagi mong babalikan (As for the domicile, whatever happens, even if you leave or get married, you will always return)," he said.

According to Garcia, Unit 352-A Two Serendra is the Cayetano couple's "family home" even if they have different domiciles – Barangay Bagumbayan for Alan Peter Cayetano, and Barangay Fort Bonifacio for Lani Cayetano.

Garcia said their camp believes the Comelec will junk the petitions against the Cayetanos. 

Referring to the petitioners, Garcia said, "Sapagkat sasabihin nila ine-exploit 'nyo ang batas, sasabihin nila bakit ginaganyan 'nyo ang batas? Eh 'yan po ang batas eh." (They'd say why are you exploiting the law, they'd say why are you doing that to the law? But that's the law.)

"We are trying to exercise a right guaranteed by the law itself," he added.

On the claim that the Cayetanos have been fooling the Filipino people, Garcia said, "Wala po 'yang puwang sa mga ganitong argumento dito sa Comelec, sapagkat ito po ay labanan, sinabi ng Comelec, ng batas at ng mismong facts." (That has no space in the arguments here at the Comelec, because this is a battle, as the Comelec said, of the law and the facts themselves.) Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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