Profiles of Courage

Juan Mercado

“On the eve of the proclamation of martial law, leading mass-circulation dailies, weekly magazines and journals, radio and television stations, were shut down by soldiers in full combat gear. Thousands of journalists, editors, radio and television personnel were arrested and thrown into jail without due process”

Members of the media industry who were critical of the Marcos administration were put under surveillance, experienced illegal detention and harassment. Although there were no legal charges filed, issues of sedition and conspiracy against the Philippine government were always raised. One of the arrested journalists at that time was Juan L. Mercado. He was kept under ‘city arrest’ alongside other media personalities such as Philippine Free Press’ Teodoro Locsin Sr., Chino Roces of Manila Times, Atty. Manuel F. Almario of Philippine News Service, etc. During Martial Law, Mercado was working as a contributing editor of PNS, a newly-established news-gathering agency composed by the then eight leading national newspapers in Manila – Manila Times, Daily Mirror, Philippine Herald, Manila Chronicle, Evening New, Bulletin, Fookien Times, and Bagong Buhay.[2] His arrest did not stop him from campaigning for an independent press. He even edited several ‘underground newspapers while detained.[3]

Mercado’s career in journalism began early during the 50s. He started working as a reporter for the Cebu daily newspaper, the Southern Star, and eventually became its associate editor.[4] He transferred to Evening News from 1961 to 1963 and moved to work at the United Nations office in New York. Later on, he worked as the Manila-based correspondent for London’s Financial Times and Honolulu-Star Bulletin.[5] Even before the late president Marcos declared Martial Law, Mercado was active in forming organizations that will safeguard press freedom in the country. Testament to this was when he co-founded Depth News as a ground-breaking service of the Press Foundation of Asia in the 1960s.[6] Following this, he established the Philippine Press Institute and co-founded the Philippine Press Council.[7] The creation of these organizations meant that there would be an ethical and responsible standard to follow for the members of the Philippine press.

And then Martial Law happened. The initial announcement by the Marcos regime was to detain them (journos, writers, columnists, etc.) as long as possible. But in mid-1973, almost half of the captured individuals had been released and placed under house arrest.[8] However, Juan Mercado stayed a little longer in prison and was released in 1975. He then proceeded to work as the Communication Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) regional office in Thailand and later transferred to the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy.[9]

Now, Juan L. Mercado is a decorated, multi-awarded, and veteran Filipino journalist and communication practitioner. He continues to write stories for various newspapers such as Philippine Daily Inquirer and Cebu Daily News and has columns in community-based papers, Sun-Star Cebu and Bohol Chronicle. Mercado was cited by the Society of Publishers Asia for his excellence in opinion writing. He won the “best columnist award” twice (2005 and 2007) given by the Catholic Archdiocesan Commission for Mass Media. Lastly, the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) awarded Mercado the 2014 AMIC Communication Award.

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[1] E. San Juan Jr.’s “Marcos and the media”

[2] Severino Samonte. “When Marcos announced martial law proclamation 48 years ago,” Philippine News Agency, September 21, 2020, https://www.pna.gov.ph/opinion/pieces/351-when-marcos-announced-martial-law-proclamation-48-years-ago.

[3] “Filipino journalist receives 2014 AMIC Communication Award,” AMIC Communication Awards, September 8, 2015,  https://amic.asia/filipino-journalist/.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Author Juan L. Mercado,” Philippine Daily Mirror, https://www.philippinedailymirror.com/author/juanlmercado/.

[6] “Filipino journalist receives 2014 AMIC Communication Award,” AMIC Communication Awards, September 8, 2015, https://amic.asia/filipino-journalist/.

[7] Ibid.

[8] John A. Lent’s “Philppine Press Under Martial Law”

[9] “Filipino journalist receives 2014 AMIC Communication Award,” AMIC Communication Awards, September 8, 2015, https://amic.asia/filipino-journalist/.

Juan L. Mercado. Image from Bangor to Bobbio: Amnesia anyone? Former detaianee reflects on Martial Law in the Philippines blog at http://bangortobobbio.blogspot.com/2010/09/amnesia-anyone-former-detainee-reflects.html
Juan L. Mercado. Image from Bangor to Bobbio: Amnesia anyone? Former detaianee reflects on Martial Law in the Philippines blog at http://bangortobobbio.blogspot.com/2010/09/amnesia-anyone-former-detainee-reflects.html

Mercado, Juan L.

Birthday: N/A

Parents: N/A

Spouse: N/A

Children: N/A

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