MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network): The Department of Justice (DOJ) said two of the four Japanese fugitives detained in the country had been cleared for deportation, and that it intended to have all of them returned to their home country before President Ferdinand Marcos goes to Tokyo next week for a five-day working visit.
The Japanese government has sought the deportation of the fugitives, who are alleged to be remotely running a robbery syndicate in Japan via encrypted messaging. On Wednesday, Japanese Embassy officials met with Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla (pic) to again discuss their deportation request.
Remulla on Friday said, “We want everybody cleared by next week and we’re working toward that end. Before [the President] departs [for Japan], we will have this case finished hopefully.”
Two of the detained fugitives, however, still have pending cases in court which could stall their return to their home country.
Yuki Watanabe and Tomonobu Saito had been charged by their respective Filipino companions with violation of Republic Act No. 9262, or the Violence Against Women and their Children Act.
On Thursday, Watanabe’s lawyer, Eljun Rico, said a motion by prosecutors to dismiss his case was “impliedly denied” because the proceedings continued.
Rico also disputed Remulla’s claim that the case was contrived, arguing that Watanabe had been indicted.
The justice chief had said the cases against the Japanese nationals were “being used by their lawyers to prevent them from leaving the country.”
He also expressed doubts about their accusers, as he said about Watanabe’s case: “Why would a woman [who was] wronged and had filed a case be visiting her boyfriend?”
On Friday, the DOJ filed a motion to fast-track the dismissal of the charges against Watanabe and Saito. Remulla expressed confidence that these cases will be resolved by Monday.
He had said earlier that the government did not want this matter to be a “distraction” and “focus of media” during Marcos’ visit to Japan.
Watanabe, 38, is suspected in Japan to be “Luffy,” the leader of the robbery group, whom Japanese media named after an anime character.
Saito, 45, and Toshiya Fujita and Kiyoto Imamura, both 38, had been tagged by Japanese police as his alleged accomplices.
Imamura is not facing any charges and is thus due for deportation, while Fujita was slapped with a light threat charge which was dismissed last Wednesday upon the prosecution’s own motion. The complainant, lawyer Francis Alcantara, did not appear in that hearing. All four are currently detained at the Bicutan Detention Center of the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
On Friday, the BI said it had relieved 36 of its staff members there, after a raid on Tuesday led to the confiscation of iPhones, laptops, internet routers and more than 500,000 peso (RM39,235) in cash.
Following Tuesday’s raid, Remulla said the DOJ will investigate BI personnel who may have allowed the fugitives to continue their enterprise.
“I want the deportation done first before we do our accounting within the department. But we will make people account for everything after the deportation,” he said.
BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco said the raid took three hours and involved 49 operatives of the agency’s Intelligence Division and 84 officers from the National Capital Region Police Office.