After 4 years, PHL govt heeds Tokyo’s request to deport 4 Japanese fugitives

THE Philippine government pushed through on Wednesday with the deportation of two of the four Japanese fugitives being sought by Japanese authorities for various crimes in their country including robberies, fraud and theft.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla led Philippine officials in turning over Japanese fugitives Imamura Kiyoto and Fujita Toshiya to Japanese authorities for deportation at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 1.

The criminal cases for violence against women filed against them have already been dismissed by the court, paving the way for their immediate deportation.

“Ahead of our President’s visit to Japan, we at the Department, together with the Bureau of Immigration and the National Bureau of Investigation hope that this will not only strengthen the ties between the Philippines and Japanese governments, we hope that this shows the sincerity and genuine effort to curb any illicit or illegal maneuvers meant to erode credibility of our justice system,” Remulla said.

Kiyoto and Toshiya were brought back to Japan via Japan Airlines flight 746, which was scheduled to leave the country at 9:40 a.m.

Four hours after, the DOJ had announced that the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasay City has granted the motions of the DOJ to withdraw the informations for violence against women separately filed against two other Japanese fugitives identified as Tomonobu Saito and Yuki Watanabe.

“Finally, this Court recognizes the importance of the relationship of the Philippines towards the international community, specifically our country’s commitment to the deportation of the accused. Hence, this Court will not be used as a hindrance to the said deportation,” the Pasay RTC said.

At a news briefing, Remulla said Saito and Watanabe are likely to be handed over to Japanese authorities today, Wednesday, for deportation.

“The Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 109 released two orders dismissing the cases or upholding the motion to dismiss filed by prosecutors in the cases of the people of the Philippines versus Tomonobu Saito and Yuki Watanabe. So there is no more legal impediment to the deportation of the two Japanese fugitives and we expect them to be deported tomorrow morning at the same time as to what happened today when we deported the first two,” Remulla announced.

Remulla said the trial court upheld the position of the DOJ that the said cases were fabricated in order to prevent the government from deporting the said fugitives.

“So tomorrow, Luffy will be home in Japan,” Remulla told reporters.

But when asked whether he was referring to Watanabe as Luffy, Remulla said one of the four Japanese fugitives is Luffy.

“One of them is Luffy. It’s only the Japanese police who can tell. One of the four is Luffy,” Remulla said.

Watanabe is believed to be alias Luffy, the alleged mastermind of the series of violent robberies in several prefectures in Japan.

Watanabe has a summary deportation order dated May 28, 2021 for being an illegal entrant and a fugitive from justice in connection with the use of counterfeit documents and theft charges in Japan.

Luffy is reportedly operating a robbery syndicate in Japan from his detention facility in Bicutan, Taguig under the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

When asked if the possibility of the complainants filing motions for reconsideration (MR) of the dismissal of the cases would prevent Saito and Watanabe’s deportation, Remulla answered: “I don’t see it happening anymore, maybe the court will give them their time of day but it looks like it’s a done deal. The court has spoken very eloquently about why they issued this order.”

Remulla also hinted that public prosecutors and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) are unlikely to assist the complainants in filing an MR.

“They will still have to deal with the government prosecutors and the Office of the Solicitor General to be able to file those motions because all prosecutions are under the control and supervision of the public prosecutors,” Remulla said.

Records showed that Watanabe and Tomonobu were arrested in Parañaque City last March 17, 2021, while Kiyoto was arrested last December 26, 2019, when he tried to board a Cebu Pacific flight at Naia Terminal 3 bound for Macau.Toshiya was arrested last February 21, 2021, in Mabini, Batangas.

Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco, for his part, said they have prepared maximum security to ensure the smooth deportation of high-profile criminals.

Both Fujita and Imamura have been tagged by the Japanese government as fugitives from justice, for having warrants issued against them as both of them face a local case in the country which was subsequently dismissed.

Kiyoto and Toshiya were deported first for violating the terms and conditions of their visa for being a fugitive and being a risk to the public interest.

“While the identity of Luffy is yet be confirmed, we are working with the Department of Justice and the Japanese authorities to be able to expedite the deportation to give more clarity to this case,” said Tansingco.

The two other key suspects remain in the BI’s facility in Bicutan pending the resolution of their local cases.They will be immediately deported once we receive confirmation that their cases have been resolved.

“The arrest and deportation of these fugitives is a huge win for the Philippine government, as we will not rest until these international criminals are sent back and banned from our country,” Tansingco assured.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes