The second of five children of public school teacher Guillermo P. Mercado of Dagami, Leyte and Adriana Sanchez of Bacoor, Cavite, Senator Orly Mercado was born on April 26, 1946. He grew up in the depressed area of Fabie St. in Paco, Manila.
A product of the public school system, Orly graduated valedictorian of Celedonio Salvador Elementary School and with honors at the Manuel A. Roxas High School. He was the first public school student to represent the country in 1961 in the New York Mirror Youth Forum in New York, U.S.A.
Orly supported his college education by working as a casual laborer at Manila’s City Engineer’s Office and later as a clerk at City Hall. He earned a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and later Master of Arts in Communications from the University of the Philippines.
Orly got his first break as broadcaster when he landed a job as radio-TV announcer of the Republic Broadcasting System while taking his Political Science course at the State University. He lost that job when he helped organize a labor union that later declared a strike. He then transferred to ABS-CBN where he started as a police reporter. He was later tapped to head and anchor the popular radio program Radio Patrol of ABS-CBN from 1969 to 1971.
He distinguished himself with his fearless reportage of contemporary events and hard hitting social commentaries. He was detained in Fort Bonifacio for almost ten months after martial law was declared.
Orly produced and hosted the popular Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko, the country’s longest running public service program helping the indigents and the needy from different parts of the country.
For his responsive and relevant broadcast programs he was honored with various citations and awards, including the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Awards in 1978 in the field of Public Service Broadcast media.
As an educator, Orly was associate professor and head of the Communication Arts Department of Miriam College and University of Santo Tomas.
Orly was elected on his first try at national politics to the First Regular Batasang Pambansa as an opposition member of Parliament in Quezon City. He topped the May 14, 1984 elections and bested more seasoned politicians associated with then strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
When President Corazon Aquino was swept to power by a civilian-backed military uprising in 1986, Orly was appointed chairman of the national Parks Development Committee which had jurisdiction over Luneta or Rizal Park.
During his first term, Orly was Majority Floorleader and chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce Act of the Philippines (RA 7394), Generics Act of 1988 (RA 6675), An Act Establishing Provincial Centers for Science and Technology (RA 6959), and the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons (RA 7277). In the last Congress, the bills he authored which became laws include: National Blood Services Act (RA 7719), An Act Granting Permanent Resident Status to Veterans (RA 7837), Barangay Health Workers Incentives (RA 7883), and the AFP Modernization Act (RA 7898).
He headed the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security and the Committee on Science and Technology. He was also vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Natural Resources, Public Services, Health and Demography. He was a member of the Commission on Appointments (CA) and was Assistant Majority Leader in both the Senate and the CA.
He was senator for three (3 terms): 1987-1992, 1992-1995 and 1995-1998. As an environmentalist, he struggled for the preservation of the country’s natural resources and the protection of the environment. He was the principal author of a bill seeking a total ban on commercial logging to arrest forest destruction and to give mother nature time to regenerate its forests.
For championing the cause of the environmentalists, Orly was chosen to chair the Green Coalition, a non-stock environmental advocacy non-governmental organization (NGO).
He represented the Congress in the UNCED Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and was an active member of the Parliamentarians for Global Action based in New York.
He was secretary of the Department of National Defense and Security under the leadership of President Estrada.
Orly was married to the late Dorothy Jane Douglas with whom he has three children, and remarried to Dra. Susie Pineda. As a martial arts practitioner he is a black belter in arnis with the rank of Lakan.