In Philippine elections, junking a partymate or a candidate in the same team is a common phenomenon.

When push comes to shove, a candidate for a national or local office would not hesitate to put down another candidate on the same ticket in order to win. Laglagan talaga.

In the past, junking of candidates happened in the last weeks or days of the elections. Looking at the sample ballots distributed in the campaign, one could see how candidates junked each other in the last stretch of the campaign period. Desperado talaga.

But in the last few national elections, there have been instances when some people promoted a different tandem for president and vice president.

In the 2010 elections, political forces supporting the late leader Benigno Simeon Aquino III were not solidly behind the Liberal Party’s “Noynoy-Roxas” ticket.

Manuel “Mar” Roxas, a former senator and interior secretary, was Aquino’s running mate. He was supposed to run for president but gave way to Noynoy after his mother, Corazon Aquino, died a year before the elections.

It fueled a groundswell for Noynoy, a one-term senator, which carried him to power and defeated the well-oiled machinery of billionaire Manuel Villar, whom many suspected to be the secret candidate of the incumbent president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Arroyo’s party, the Lakas-Christian Muslims Democrats, also jettisoned its own candidate, former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro, who is Aquino’s maternal relative. Laglagan talaga.

Some pro-Aquino forces were behind the “Noynoy-Binay” team and they succeeded in pushing Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, a long-time ally of Aquino’s mother, to win the vice presidential elections.

But junking was not uncommon in Philippine post-war politics as politicians switched parties and joined rival organizations for a chance to get into higher office. Often, politicians abandoned their party, either the Liberal or the Nacionalista, to get a chance to become the standard bearer in presidential elections held every four years.

There were also instances when politicians from the same party jostled with each other to win the backing of the party of the incumbent president.

In the gubernatorial race in Davao City before Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law in 1972, he abandoned Vicente Duterte, a loyal supporter who was in his Cabinet, to support another politician.

Rodrigo Duterte’s father was heartbroken by the electoral loss, which led to his death. It was a situation similar to what happened in 2004 when actor Fernando Poe Jr. narrowly lost to incumbent leader Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Marcos, the dictator, who was an original member of the Liberal Party, abandoned the party and joined the rival Nacionalista Party before the 1965 elections to challenge incumbent president Diosdado Macapagal. Marcos won.

The Nacionalista Party was grooming Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson as its standard bearer for the 1965 elections, but he suddenly died in 1962 after helping the Liberal’s Macapagal win in 1961.

Turncoatism and junking each other have long been the hallmarks of Philippine politics. Even during the Marcos years, the two-party system in the country vanished as the dictator created a monolithic party, the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) or the New Society Movement, to perpetuate himself in power.

After he was toppled in a near-bloodless, civilian-backed military coup, known as the “EDSA People Power” uprising in 1986, the political system got worse as politicians shifted from one party to another and the winning president forming his own political party which would soon became the dominant political organization.

The presidential bandwagon framework has corrupted the country’s party system.

This year’s presidential election is no exception.

The dictator’s son and namesake, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., abandoned his Nacionalista Party and his own father’s KBL party to run under the Partido Federal ng Philippines, a party founded only in 2018.

His main rival, Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, also discarded the much maligned Liberal Party to run for president independently. The other leading candidates, Senators Emmanuel Pacquiao and Panfilo Lacson, and Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso, a.k.a. Isko Moreno, are also running under moribund political parties.

It is not surprising to hear rumors and speculations early in the campaign period of partnerships being broken by interest groups backing certain presidential candidates.

First to surface was the Isko Moreno-Sara Duterte tandem. Allies and close supporters of the president had expressed support for Isko Moreno, dropping Marcos even if the president’s daughter was strongly behind Bongbong.

Then, Bicol politicians crossed party lines to campaign for a Leni-Sara ticket. Bicolano politicians and the more than three million voters from the region are so regionalistic that it is not a surprise they are all rooting for Naga City native Robredo.

Sara Duterte-Carpio should benefit from these two equations — Isko-Sara and Leni-Sara — but it appears her numbers in the two independent opinion polls – SWS and Pulse Asia — do not add up to match the very high rating of her partner. Based on last month’s polls, Marcos had 60 percent and 50 percent voters’ preferences in the Pulse Asia and SWS surveys, respectively.

In the SWS survey, Senate President Vicente Sotto III is closing in behind Sara with a single-digit spread. There is danger of Sara losing to Sotto.

Political analysts say Marcos believers, which number some 30 percent in the polls, could not be supporting Sara Duterte Carpio and could be rooting for Sotto. That could explain how Sotto’s numbers went up to more than 30 percentage points while his own partner’s numbers remained at single-digit levels.

There were speculations die-hard Marcos supporters had been made to believe in conspiracy theories that President Duterte would have Marcos disqualified after being proclaimed winner of the balloting.

If Sara Duterte-Carpio wins the vice presidency, there is a big chance she will move up to the highest position in the event Marcos is disqualified.

For Bongbong’s supporters, Sara is a much bigger threat than his rivals, including Robredo who had defeated him in a come-from-behind win in the 2016 vice presidential elections.

Bongbong was denied victory in 2016 and could end up a loser again if Sara becomes vice president because Marcos faces disqualification cases before the Commission on Elections, which may likely go all the way up to the Supreme Court. Laglagan to the max talaga. Ngayon pa lang nila-laglag na nila si Sara.

Two and a half months ahead of the May 9 balloting, there are still uncertainties in the political contest for president and vice president.

The opinion polls may show Bongbong and Sara ahead of their rivals but the emerging equations and junking of partners and candidates can alter the outcome of the elections.

Political loyalties continue to shift and voters’ preferences could change. The real political battle is happening away from traditional and social media, which influence survey results. Hindi pa talaga game over.