Covid-19 claims lives of 3 Catholic priests in Cotabato

By Edwin Fernandez and Noel Punzalan

Catholic priest Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI (Photo from Mayor Cynthia Guiani Sayadi FB page)

COTABATO CITY: Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi has called on residents to strictly practice minimum health protocols following the successive deaths of three Catholic priests here this weekend due to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). 

 “Please stay safe Cotabateños,” she posted on her Facebook page on Sunday afternoon.  

The latest to fall to Covid-19 was Fr. Eliseo Mercado, 72, of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) congregation and former president of the Notre Dame University in this city.  

“It pains me upon learning that Father Eliseo Mercado is now in the hands of the Lord. He was like a father to me,” Guiani-Sayadi said.  

Mercado died around 3:25 p.m. Sunday at the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) where he was confined due to coronavirus on May 8.  

Mercado succumbed to cardiac arrest while on his road to recovery, the OMI congregation said in a statement.  

Fr. Amador Castillo, a colleague of Mercado, said the latter was ready to go home after completing isolation at the CRMC when he experienced chest pains.  

Mercado underwent a heart bypass operation many years ago. He has a pacemaker. 

 Mercado, a known peace advocate, was a known expert in the role of Islam in the country having studied and completed work in Islamic Studies & Arabic Studies at the Gregorian University in Rome and the Oriental Institute in Cairo in Egypt.  

Meanwhile, two other Catholic priests here died this weekend, also due to the virus.  The cremated remains of Fr. Loreto Sanoy and Fr. Rex Bacero are now inside urns and lying in repose at the Archdiocese of Cotabato mausoleum here.  

Sanoy and Bacero, both members of the Diocesan Clergy of Cotabato (DCC) have both tested positive for Covid-19 and successively died Friday night and Saturday dawn, respectively.  

Both expired while undergoing treatment at the CRMC isolation facility.  They were separately rushed to CRMC last week after showing symptoms of the virus.  Fr. Ben Toreto, rector of the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral, said interment is yet to be announced as the congregation is yet to meet Monday with the families of Sanoy, 78, and Bacero, 52.  

It was not clear how Sanoy and Bacero contracted the virus.  Sanoy was born in Libungan, North Cotabato on December 10, 1943, and ordained to the priesthood on April 8, 1983.  

He was assigned to various parishes in the Archdiocese of Cotabato, including as rector of Notre Dame Archdiocesan Seminary.  

At the time of his death, Sanoy was the parochial vicar of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Cotabato City.  Bacero, on the other hand, was born in Cotabato City on April 19, 1969, and ordained on April 25, 1995.  

At the time of his demise, Bacero was the president of Notre Dame of Salaman College in Lebak town and Notre Dame of Kalamansig, both in Sultan Kudarat province.  

The three were among the 69 patients who succumbed to Covid-19 since March 2020.  Currently, the city has 35 Covid-19 active cases. 

Philippine News Agency

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