2 kidnapped Filipinos in Gaza may not be in 1st batch to be released

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

November 24, 2023, 8:22 pm

<p>Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega.<em> (PNA file photo by Robert Alfiler)</em></p>

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega. (PNA file photo by Robert Alfiler)

MANILA – Two missing Filipinos, suspected among those kidnapped in Israel on Oct. 7, may not be among the first batch of hostages in Gaza that will be released by Hamas terrorists starting Friday.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo Jose De Vega said that the truce was expected to have started around 1 p.m. Friday (PH time).

Women and children hostages would be released first, according to initial talks.

“[T]he two missing Filipinos, they are still missing, we’re assuming they are hostages. Among the hostages, we don’t expect that they’ll be among the first batch (that will be released),” he said in an interview on Friday.

“But Israel knows that we will be very pleased if they will give priority also to our nationals,” he added.

Local reports said Hamas will let go an initial 13 civilians on Friday, with a total of 50 to be freed over four days after striking a deal with Israel that allowed a four-day truce between their forces.

De Vega said the Israeli government is certain that one of the missing Filipino, Gallenor Pacheco, was kidnapped.

“We’re almost sure that he’s one of the hostages, that’s official from the Israeli government, that they’re looking at him as a hostage,” he said. “The other one, the lady, a dual citizen, they’re assuming that she’s a hostage.”

De Vega also reported that 26 Filipinos remain in Gaza, including a nun.

In Lebanon, 88 are being processed for repatriation.

“One thing important is that the Filipinos in southern Lebanon where Hezbollah is or in northern Israel where there are small attacks, are not there. They have evacuated to safer grounds,” he said.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, there have been a decrease in Filipinos who requested to go home, De Vega said.

“Some of them are concerned that there are rallies and protests. Some weeks ago, they felt conflict may reach the West Bank, but our Embassy said some of the 20 who earlier expressed intent to leave no longer want to exit,” he said in Filipino.

To date, a total of 115 Filipino nationals are still in the West Bank, including nine nuns, 21 overseas Filipino workers, and 85 resident Filipinos.

The Philippine Embassy in Jordan facilitated the exit of five others on Thursday. They are scheduled to arrive in Manila on Friday.

Two Filipino workers from the West Bank were repatriated on Nov. 8, following the raising of Alert Level 2 in the West Bank in October. (PNA)