ONE of the questions asked in the “Choices and Voices for 2010” forum at the Cebu International Convention Center the other day was what the presidential candidate planned to do to root out corruption in government if he were the one elected. It must have caused some discomfort to at least two respondents.

Former President Erap Estrada was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan although his successor saved his skin by quickly granting him absolute pardon. Former Senate president Manuel Villar, on the other hand, was recently censured in a committee report signed by a majority of his peers in the Senate in connection with supposed irregularities in the C-5 extension road project.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

Erap proved to be a real trouper, which is not surprising considering his vast experience as an actor. “Been there, done that”, he deadpanned, drawing guffaws from the audience. I thought that what he was trying to say was that “it takes a thief to catch a thief” but he explained that what he meant was that he had been there, the President who was wrongly accused.

Villar wisely refused to make any reference to the censure report of the Senate committee of the whole. He simply said that he will have the bidding of all government procurements televised. I can’t imagine how this can be done especially in provinces which do not have local television.

Neither did Villar say who would pay for the television coverage; under the prevailing TV advertising rates and considering the number of public biddings that the national and local governments conduct every year, the cost should be enormous. But as he loves to trumpet at every opportunity he gets, Villar has the experience so I would trust that he also has the plan.

Still on the forum, that Gibo Teodoro won the mock elections that immediately followed the forum should warm the cockles of the hearts of his ardent supporters, especially my friend Doming Geraldizo. Doming’s love for Gibo can only be equaled by his addiction to running.

When he’s not busy collecting reports on the surveys where his favorite presidential candidate is allegedly leading, Doming practices at the Cebu City Sports Center with his friends in the Walk and Talk Friendship Club. He was one of the few senior citizens who finished the punishing Sinulog 42-kilometer run earlier this month.

I love Doming’s passion (for Gibo and running) and have been planning to write about it but couldn’t find the appropriate occasion. I wanted to make up for the taunts I have thrown at him even if they were in retaliation to his claim that my favorite presidential candidate is autistic. I realized I was being harsh to a dear friend whose only fault is that he still listens to paid hacks.

But we at least agree that our respective candidates are the best. So while we continue to argue as to who is better between them, if God forbid, his or my candidate withdraws from the race for any reason, the two of us will vote for the remaining one. The depth of our choice ends with Dick Gordon, after which we will strike one blow for a quick count by not shading the circle for president in our ballot.

I am sad for Gordon, our third favorite presidential candidate, who gained only 45 of the 960 votes cast. But my niece reported that she was able to get inside the CICC, along with five classmates, because the 250 seats reserved for Gordon’s supporters were unclaimed. Unlike the others, Dick, bless his soul, did not pack the hall with his partisans.

But that is beside the point, which is that Gibo at least won a survey. I have found the perfect excuse to write about his most loyal supporter who is also my very good friend. This one’s for you ‘Ming.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)