DOJ to probe BI personnel for Japan robberies allegedly run from inside detention facilities

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 28 2023 05:09 PM

MANILA — The Department of Justice will probe Immigration officials who may have allowed a Japanese to run a series of robberies in Japan while within the confines of a Bureau of Immigration detention facility.

“I will hold them accountable if it is found out that they were operating a criminal enterprise inside, we will hold them accountable,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla warned during an ambush interview on Friday, the same day he confirmed to Philippine media that BI is holding 2 Japanese men in custody, suspected of being part of the Japanese robbery group.


One of the two men is a certain Yuki Watanabe who also goes by the aliases Kenjie Watanabe and Kenjie Shimada, who was arrested by the bureau in April 2021.

He is supposedly known as “Luffy,” the alleged ringleader of a robbery group responsible for a series of robberies in Japan, who reportedly gave instructions through an encrypted messaging app while detained in Manila.

According to a briefer released by Remulla, Watanabe already has a summary deportation order dated May 28, 2021 for being an illegal entrant and a fugitive from justice for theft and use of counterfeit official mark and is supposedly the subject of an Interpol blue notice.

A blue notice seeks to collect additional information about a person's identity, location or activities in relation to a criminal investigation.

Watanabe has a pending criminal case for violence against women and children (VAWC) in Pasay, according to the DOJ, and will only be deported after either the dismissal of the case or service of sentence. 

“We cannot act on a deportation of a person with a pending case that’s why we’re looking at the case if it’s a simulated case, if it’s a real case or a simulated case,” Remulla explained.

The Justice chief however said they are seeking further confirmation of his identity from the Japanese government.

“The Japanese government is the only one who can confirm it when we show them the person in custody,” he said.

A second Japanese in BI custody is a certain Imamura Kiyoto. 

He was initially thought to be alias “Luffy” when he was intercepted by Immigration personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in 2019 but it turned out that he is only a member of the group, according to the DOJ briefer.

He will soon be summarily deported after Immigration officials confirmed a VAWC case against him in a Makati City court had been dismissed.

The briefer said the BI Warden has been instructed to “strictly monitor and prohibit use of any communication device” and to “confiscate any communication device being used by any ward in the facility.”

“We already banned telephones so they will have no means of communication. It’s supposed to be banned ever since but I know that there’s a ban right now,” Remulla said.

During a press conference Friday, Remulla said the DOJ will have to talk to the Japanese Embassy first before proceeding.

“Actually the situation here is that Japan is the requesting party. When a case like this happens, it is Japan that will request us and we’re waiting for that request to push through first,” he said.

“But what we can say is that our Bureau of Immigration is holding many aliens right now who are liable for many crimes that they have committed here in the Philippines and sometimes even abroad and we act on the request of foreign governments when this happens,” he added.