DOJ fast-tracks pending cases vs Japanese fugitives

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 04 2023 05:32 PM


MANILA — The Department of Justice (DOJ) is fast-tracking the dismissal of pending cases against Japanese fugitives allegedly involved in a series of robberies in Japan who are currently under the custody of the Bureau of Immigration.

Justice spokesperson Mico Clavano said prosecutors filed on Friday motions for the early resolution of their motions to dismiss the charges against 2 Japanese nationals.

“There was a new ground that was raised for the motion to dismiss and what was filed to make it earlier is a motion for early resolution that’s why it was moved from Tuesday to Monday,” he said.

Yuki Watanabe, whom the Japanese police identified to be “Luffy,” allegedly the ringleader of the Japanese robbery group, was supposed to attend a hearing on Tuesday for the continuation of the trial on the violence against women and their children (VAWC) case he is facing before the Pasay City regional trial court.

But Clavano said prosecutors were able to secure an earlier date, on Monday, February 6, after the court granted their motion.

Watanabe’s lawyer, Eljun Rico, on Thursday, claimed the prosecution’s motion to dismiss was “impliedly denied” because the hearing on the VAWC case against his client pushed through with his former wife testifying against him.

Clavano, however, disputed Rico’s interpretation of the proceedings.

“When you say ‘impliedly denied,’ it’s up for interpretation. For us, if there is no order of dismissal or there’s no order of denial, then it means it’s still up for resolution. So the fact that we filed a motion for early resolution which was granted, that’s what we’re holding on to. And hopefully, the motion to dismiss will be resolved on Monday,” he explained. 

The public prosecutor reportedly raised the issue of the pendency of the motion to dismiss but according to Clavano, a private prosecutor unexpectedly showed up.

“So they presented affidavits for their side and that was the reason why it was not resolved right away because as a respect also to the judge and in fairness to him, he did not dismiss it because there were apparently new affidavits that were submitted,” he said.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla is optimistic the court will grant the dismissal.

“From the appearances that happened after that and there were some documents filed, the pattern became very apparent that there’s really an intent to delay the deportation,” he said.

He earlier gave guidance to prosecutors handling cases against 4 Japanese fugitives to use their discretion in deciding whether to move for the dismissal of charges against them.

So far, 2 Japanese nationals — Kiyoto Imamura and Toshiya Fujita — have been cleared of charges.

A light threat’s case against Fujita was dismissed on February 1 by the Taguig Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 116 while Bacolod City Regional Trial Court Branch 51 junked 3 VAWC cases against him citing the inaction of the complainant and the prosecution’s claim that the cases were filed only to delay Fujita’s deportation.

The DOJ has so far not named the 4th Japanese subject of deportation nor the pending case he is facing but DOJ officials confirmed his pending case is also before a Pasay City court.

Remulla expressed confidence Friday that they will be able to meet their target of deporting all 4 Japanese nationals before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. leaves for Japan for a working visit on February 8th.

“We’re confident that the reasoning has prevailed and that not only the reasoning, but the perception that we had in the very beginning about the delay in the deportation was just because of contrived or fabricated cases,” he said.

“We’re really trying our best to finish this problem in the soonest possible time. I think that things are moving fast enough for us to say that we may be able to meet our target if things go well - we'll may be able to meet our target to deport the four by next week, by this coming week. We’re doing everything legally feasible to do so,” he added.

Clavano said the earlier hearing on their motions to dismiss set on Monday is important to give them enough time to resolve the deportation issue before Marcos’ trip.

“We found it too late for February 7 so we wanted it at least a day earlier, because we have to prepare for the travel of the President. The point is to get the issue out of the way. We want the President to focus on what he really needs to do in Japan. So for him to be asked questions about this issue would sort of distract the trip from its real purpose,” he explained.

Remulla told reporters that Japanese police are expected to arrive in Manila over the weekend.

“Before the deportation, the Japanese police, the NPA, National Police Agency, must come to get them. And along with the deportees will also be the evidence, the cellphones, the communcation devices that were confiscated. They will also be brought at the same time,” Clavano explained.

An inter-agency meeting, meanwhile, will be held on Monday at 4pm, with all the Japanese and Filipino officials and agencies involved in the deportation, the DOJ spokesperson said. A final date for the deportation is expected by then.

“It would be in the best interest of the country, in the best interest of the Japanese government, it would be, to everybody’s advantage, to just deport everybody at the same time and turn over all the available evidence because I believe the Japanese authorities want to resolve this case as soon as possible time. They want to examine the evidence, they want to have the people in custody,” Remulla added.


The Justice chief meanwhile did not confirm the relief of 36 Immigration personnel, including the warden of the Immigration detention facility in Bicutan, Taguig, where laptops and cellphones were confiscated from detainees during a raid earlier this week.

“We will do the investigation after the deportation. We will not act on any matter yet. We are just concentrating on this matter of deportation, that’s the most important thing. So the people to be penalized, the investigations to be conducted will happen after the deportation,” he said.