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Monday, February 26, 2024

Filipino among first group of hostages freed by Hamas — PBBM

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President Marcos on Saturday confirmed that a Filipino national was among the hostages released by the Palestinian militant group Hamas weeks after being held captive in Gaza.

“I am overjoyed to confirm that a Filipino, Mr. Gelienor ‘Jimmy’ Pacheco, was among the first group of 24 hostages released by the Hamas yesterday,” Marcos said on his official X (formerly Twitter) account.

Pacheco, 33, was taken hostage on Oct. 7.

Marcos said Pacheco is “safe” and already in the custody of the Philippine Embassy in Israel.

He lauded the Philippine Foreign Service and thanked the State of Qatar for their vital role in ensuring Pacheco’s release.

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“I salute the work of the Philippine Foreign Service in securing his release, and once again thank the State of Qatar for their invaluable assistance in making Jimmy’s release possible,” Marcos said.

The President, however, said he is still worried about the safety of another Filipino national, Noralyn Babadilla, who is also reportedly held hostage by the Hamas group.

He said the Philippine government would spare no effort to ensure Babadilla’s release if she is indeed one of the militant group’s hostages.

“We remain concerned over the whereabouts of our other national, Ms. Noralyn Babadilla, and are sparing no effort to locate and secure her if she is indeed found to be one of the hostages,” he said.

“We pray for the continued success of the truce and for all hostages to be released.”

Marcos assured the Filipinos in Israel and their loved ones in the Philippines that the government would continue monitoring the situation in the war-torn areas and coordinating with international counterparts to ensure their welfare and safety.

For his part, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega said Pacheco is currently at the hospital for a medical examination.

“(Philippine) Embassy people in Tel Aviv are with Pacheco at (the) hospital now,” he said.

In a separate statement, the Israeli Embassy in Manila welcomed the news and assured that Israel is also making efforts to secure the release of other hostages, including one Filipino-Israeli believed to be among them.

“The Israeli Embassy in Manila expresses its relief upon the release of Mr. Jimmy Pacheco from captivity by Hamas,” it said.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain for the safe release of the 200+ hostages still held in captivity by the terror organization Hamas. The Israeli government is committed and will do whatever is needed to bring them back home.”

The Embassy said Philippine Ambassador to Israel Pedro Laylo Jr., together with senior representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, welcomed Pacheco.

Pacheco was freed together with a group of Thai nationals.

Hamas and the Israeli government agreed to a prisoner exchange deal early Wednesday after almost six hours of debate, according to Anadolu reports.

Citing the Israeli Broadcasting Authority, Anadolu reported that a deal was approved by the Israeli Cabinet where 50 hostages consisting of children and women held by Hamas in Gaza would be released in exchange for a four-day ceasefire.

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