By JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL
Father Eliseo Mercado, Jr. of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation died Sunday afternoon at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center(CRMC) here, a government COVID-19 treatment facility.
Father Jun as he is popularly known is a native of Cotabato City and he felt the pandemic symptoms while he was at his residence at the OMI Novitiate in Tamontaka. He was confined at the CRMC last May 8 after he was tested positive for COVID-19 and thus the 3rd Cotabato priest succumbed to COVID-19 complications.
His colleagues in the Oblate congregation, whose pontifical base is in Rome, said there were signs he would recover but his heart stopped beating Sunday afternoon.
Father Jun as mentioned earlier is the third priest to have died from complications due to COVID-19, in just 36 hours.
Two other priests belonging to the Diocesan Clergy of Cotabato (DCC) Loreto Sanoy and Rex Bacero, died one after another last Friday and Saturday respectively also due to COVID-19 complications.
Sanoy was assistant parish priest in Cotabato City’s Rosary Heights Parish.
Bacero was president of the Notre Dame of Salaman College in the seaside Lebak town in Sultan Kudarat province.
They tested positive for coronavirus last week and, subsequently, got hospitalized due to breathing problems and fever.
However, according to his fellow OMI priests, Mercado had also a lingering heart condition.
He also had a head injury due to an accident about five years ago and nearly died from blood clots around his brain that doctors removed via surgery.
Unfortunately, on May 23, his heart stopped due to heart attack. Emergency Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) was administered to him several times by the hospital staff of CRMC until his body finally gave up and was not responding anymore to any of the medical intervention being given to him. He was finally declared dead at 3:25 p.m. last Sunday, May 23.
Mercado, a known “pro-Moro priest,” was popular in Mindanao for having supported the crafting of the Sept. 2, 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chaired by Nur Misuari.
He also supported the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that paved the way for the setting up in 2019 of the MILF-led Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao now headed by Chief Minister Ahod “Al Hajj Murad” Ebrahim.
As of this writing, the remains of Fr. Mercado lie in state at the Archbishop Mongeau Chapel inside the Notre Dame University campus here in Cotabato City.
Finally, he will be brought to his final resting place in Tamontaka also in this city where he will be buried at the OMI Cemetery on Saturday, May 29 with Archbishop Angelito Lampon, OMI who will lead the funeral mass.
JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL