MANILA (UPDATE) - Father Eliseo "Jun" Mercado Jr., a longtime peace advocate, passed away Sunday. He was 72.
Mercado's congregation, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), announced that he passed away at the Cotabato Regional Medical Center at 3:25 p.m.
Mercado was hospitalized with complications from COVID-19 on May 8. On Saturday, his test result yielded negative for the virus, OMI added. He was also transferred to the hospital's intensive care unit for his recovery.
OMI said Mercado seemed to be getting better but he suffered a heart attack.
"Please pray for the repose of his soul! His presence and contribution to the Philippine Province and to the worldwide community of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate will be sorely missed: Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine... (Eternal rest grant to him, Lord...)," OMI said.
Mercado was president of Norte Dame University in Cotabato City from 1992 to 2002. He then served as director for OMI's Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation in Rome from 2003 to 2006.
He is well known for his role in the peace process in Mindanao.
The Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) also expressed its grief at Mercado's passing.
"The Institute for Autonomy and Governance announces with deep sadness that its Senior Policy Adviser, Fr. Eliseo "Jun" Mercado, OMI, has joined his Creator today, May 23, 2021. Fr. Jun devoted his life for the cause of peace and for greater understanding of peoples of different faiths and ideologies. His legacy of universal love and service will live on in the works of IAG," it said in a statement.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process also extended its deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Mercado.
"Fr. Jun will be best remembered for being a staunch peace advocate who fought for the rights and welfare of the tri-people of Mindanao -- Muslims, Christians and the indigenous peoples," it said in a statement.
"He was truly a remarkable man of the cloth whose love for the people of Mindanao, as well as his steadfast dedication, passion and commitment to the peace process is much appreciated and will be forever cherished," OPAPP added.
Muslim leaders also paid tribute to the late peacemaker.
Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) Interim Chief Minister Ahod Balawang Ebrahim said Mercado was "one of the pillars of peace who steadfastly championed the Bangsamoro cause."
Deputy Speaker Zia Alonto Adiong also praised Mercado for his contributions to the Bangsamoro community and the peace process.
Basilan Congressman Mujiv Hataman meanwhile called Mercado a “true compatriot.”