GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Top city councilor Ronnel Rivera today filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) formalizing his bid to unseat Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio in next year’s local elections.

Rivera assembled both familiar and new faces in a full slate under the People’s Champ Movement, a local political party founded and headed by Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao.

Incumbent Vice Mayor Shirlyn Bañas likewise filed her COC and is seeking re-election as the running mate of Rivera.

Rep. Manny Pacquiao (center) raises the hand of younger brother Roel Pacquiao (to his left) who is running for congressman in the First District of South Cotabato. The rest of the candidates are (from left) Dodie Ladrera, Janena Tito, Franklin Gacal Jr,. Shirlyn Bañas, Dominador Lagare III (in green T-Shirt), Ronel Rivera and Shandee Llido.(FOTO BY PAUL BERNALDEZ)

Joining Rivera and Bañas, who will be running for councilors, are incumbent Councilor Dominador Lagare III, former city mayor Rosalita Nuñez, former assemblyman Rogelio Garcia, former city councilors Ramon Milleza and Franklin Gacal Jr, Shandee Llido, Brix Tan, Janena Tito, radioman Dodie Ladrera, Rey Abing, Art Cloma and Francis Martinez.

The candidates wore yellow except for Lagare who was in a green T-shirt.  Lagare filed his certificate on Wednesday.  Emblazoned at the back of the yellow T-shirts worn by Rivera and his slate was UNA.  Pacquiao has emerged as one of the prominent figure of the United Nationalist Alliance headed by Vice President Jejomar Binay and former President Joseph Estrada.

Rogelio ‘Roel’ Pacquiao completes the triumvirate as he also motored to Koronadal City to file his COC.   He is seeking to follow elder brother Manny as the second Pacquiao to serve in House of Representative.

Roel Pacquiao will most likely face incumbent Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr.

Acharon and Custodio are filing their COCs on Friday.

Rivera ran as an independent in 2010 but still topped the race for city councilors after he was adopted by then mayoral candidates Nuñez, Loreto Acharon and Flor Congson.

He is the third son of Rodrigo Rivera Sr., whose family owns the biggest Gensa-based tuna fishing company.  The Riveras also own dozens of other businesses including chain of pawnshops and a thrift bank.

His elder brother Ryan ran but lost against Antonino-Custodio for the first congressional district of General Santos City-South Cotabato.

Antonino-Custodio is now the city mayor of General Santos and is widely believed to be seeking re-election.

Antonino-Custodio and Manny Pacquiao also squared off for the congressional race in the city in 2007.  Pacquiao, then a newcomer in politics, lost to Antonino-Custodio.

He is now fielding his brother Roel and supporting the candidacy of Rivera in what will shape as a proxy war between the eight-time world boxing champion and erstwhile political nemesis.