By Ali G. Macabalang
Three Catholic priests in Cotabato region have succumbed one after another to complications attributed to COVID-19, prompting local authorities to call for more vigilance among residents in the pandemic.
Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr. of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) expired around 3:25 p.m. Sunday, May 23, at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center (CRMC) here where attending physicians confirmed him positive of Coronavirus symptoms last May 8, it was learned.
Mercado, former president of the Notre Dame University here and executive director of the Institute of Autonomy and Governance (IAG), was brought earlier this month to CRMC for his lingering heart ailment purportedly triggered in an accident five years ago.
Known locally as “Father Jun,” Mercado had earlier shown signs of recovery from his heart ailment but complications from COVID-19 symptoms led to his fatal cardiac arrest, colleagues in the OMI were cited as saying in reports.
Mercado, who would turn 73 years old this May 29, was credited for his role in the Mindanao peace process, notably in the talks between the national government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
He was the third Catholic priest in the Cotabato region to have succumbed to COVID-19 in four days this month.
Two other priests belonging to the Diocesan Clergy of Cotabato, Loreto Sanoy and Rex Bacero, expired one after another Friday, May 21 also due to COVID-19 complications.
Fr. Sanoy, 77, was assistant priest in the Rosary Heights Parish here, while Fr. Bacero , 52, was president of the Notre Dame of Salaman College in the seaside Lebak town in Sultan Kudarat.
They tested positive for coronavirus a few days earlier and, subsequently, got hospitalized for breathing problems, fever and body malaise, reports said.
It was not immediately known how the three local Catholic leaders contracted the Coronavirus disease, even as local civilian authorities led by the city government called on residents to strictly observe minimum health protocols. (AGM)