BI 'doing everything' to deport Japan robbery suspects, says spox

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2023 04:20 PM | Updated as of Feb 06 2023 04:40 PM

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MANILA — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday said it was “doing everything” to fast-track the deportation of 4 Japanese nationals connected to a string of robberies in their home country.

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said that they view as a “priority” the deportation of alleged Japanese robbery ring leader Yuki Watanabe aka “Luffy” and 3 of his cohorts, identified by Kyodo News as Kiyoto Imamura, Toshiya Fujita, and Tomonobu Kojima.

“While I’m unable to share information about their scheduled importation at this moment habang fina-finalize yung detalye (while details are being finalized), this is actually a priority activity for the BI and the Department of Justice," Sandoval said in a public briefing.

"Magkatuwang po ang 2 ahensya para mapabilis ang deportation ng 4 na ito, para mapabalik na sila sa kung saan sila nanggaling sa bansang Japan at harapin nila ang mga kaso nila,” she added. 

(The 2 agencies are coordinating to speed up their deportation to Japan so they could face their cases.)

She also noted that the Department of Justice (DOJ), BI’s parent agency, was scheduled to have a coordination meeting with other concerned government agencies to “see if we are ready to deport the Japanese fugitives.”

The DOJ earlier confirmed that 2 of the 4 Japanese fugitives were already cleared for deportation.

Sandoval added that her bureau was also constantly in touch with the Japanese Embassy in Manila in arranging the deportation of the fugitives.

“Constant naman ang ating pakikipag-ugnayan doon po sa kanilang embahada very helpful naman sila sa arrangements para dito, and of course the Department of Justice. We will do everything to expedite their deportation,” she said. 

(We are coordinating with their embassy, which was very helpful with arrangements for this.)

Kyodo News earlier reported that Japanese police had asked the Philippine government for the transfer of the 4 fugitives, who had been detained at a BI facility in Manila since 2021. The report particularly named Watanabe and another cohort, Kiyoto Imamura.

Even while under detention in the Philippines, “Luffy” is believed to have remotely given instructions to those carrying out the robberies in Japan through an encrypted messaging app. 

The DOJ said it would probe immigration officials who might have allowed “Luffy” to continue his crime operations even while being detained. 

Deportation of the fugitives is expected to begin as early as Tuesday, Feb. 7, with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department sending some 15 of its investigators to the Philippines on Monday, Kyodo News also reported.

Meanwhile, a Pasay City court has yet to decide on the fate of Watanabe and Kojima, who were both facing charges of violence against women and children.

The prosecution had sought to dismiss the said cases so the BI could deport the 2 Japanese fugitives.

The expected deportation comes days before President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. travels to Japan for a state visit on Wednesday. 

—With report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News