Freed Filipino hostage wishes to spend Christmas in PH
MANILA, Philippines — After spending 49 days in captivity in the Gaza Strip, freed Hamas hostage Gelienor “Jimmy” Pacheco wants to be reunited with his family in the Philippines, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“What he wants is to get well first, sort out his documents, and come home before Christmas,” Foreign Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega told the Inquirer. “He probably wants to take a Christmas vacation,” he said.
Pacheco, one of the two Filipinos reported missing following the reescalation of the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group, was among the hostages released on Friday under a ceasefire and hostage deal agreement that was reached seven weeks into the conflict.
The Philippine Embassy in Israel earlier said the 33-year-old caregiver “[was] in high spirits and [appeared] to be in good health.”
It added that he had received medical attention and underwent psychological evaluation at Shamir Medical Center outside Tel Aviv.
The father of three also spoke to his wife, Clarice Joy, who had been in contact with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) since he was taken hostage on Oct. 7 when Hamas fighters rampaged through southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking captive 240 Israelis and foreigners.
De Vega earlier said the Philippine government would extend financial and livelihood assistance to Pacheco should he decide to return home.
In addition, the Israeli government would provide him and his immediate family lifetime social security benefits and regular stipends similar to those given to Israelis who became victims of terrorist attacks.
“He will get a pension,” De Vega explained.
Pacheco was at work in one of the kibbutz near the Israeli border with Gaza on the day Hamas attacked, DMW officer in charge Hans Cacdac said in a forum on Saturday.
According to the Embassy of Israel in the Philippines, Pacheco already met the family of his Israeli employer, Amitai Ben Zvi, who was murdered in his home by members of the Palestinian militant group.
“We are all one big family. Amitai’s sons came to hug Jimmy Pacheco and let him know he is not alone,” the embassy said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
Happy day for Israel, PH
Pacheco also met Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen at the hospital where he was recovering, according to the Philippine Embassy in Israel.
“It is a happy day for Israel and the Philippines… Israel exerted all effort and we are here for you,” the embassy quoted Cohen as telling Pacheco.
On the other hand, De Vega said they were “working to verify if there are indeed other Filipinos held hostage by the Hamas group.”
President Marcos earlier said the country was “sparing no effort” to also ascertain the condition and whereabouts of Noralyn Babadilla, the other Filipino who was reported missing after the Oct. 7 attack.
“She’s being assumed as a hostage but there is still no assurance,” De Vega said earlier, adding that Philippine authorities were continuing to coordinate with Qatar for any information about other possible Filipino hostages.
Under a four-day ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, a total of 50 Israeli hostages would be exchanged for 150 Palestinian prisoners.
Pacheco was one of 24 hostages released by Hamas on Friday. He was the only Filipino in the group which included 13 Israelis and 10 Thai farm workers. In exchange, the Israeli government set free 39 Palestinian women and youth from its prisons.
A Reuters wire report said that 13 Israelis and four Thai nationals released by Hamas arrived in Israel on Sunday in the second step of the hostage deal that almost fell apart due to a dispute over the delivery of aid supplies into Gaza.
Television footage showed the hostages on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing after leaving Gaza, as Hamas handed over the captives to the International Committee of the Red Cross late on Saturday. Of the 13 Israelis released, six were women while the rest were children and teenagers.
“The released hostages are on their way to hospitals in Israel, where they will reunite with their families,” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a statement.
The armed wing of Hamas earlier threatened to delay the scheduled second round of hostage release on Saturday until Israel met all truce conditions, including committing to let aid trucks into northern Gaza. (See related story in World, Page B4.)
Hamas spokesperson Osama Hamdan claimed that only 65 of 340 aid trucks that entered Gaza since Friday had reached northern Gaza, which was “less than half of what Israel agreed on.”
The IDF said that inside the Gaza Strip, aid distribution was being implemented by the United Nations and international organizations.
The United Nations said that 61 trucks of aid were delivered to northern Gaza on Saturday, the largest number since Oct. 7. They included food, water, and emergency medical supplies.