MANILA — Two more fugitives allegedly involved in a series of robberies and fraud cases in Japan were deported from the Philippines on Wednesday night.
The Japanese fugitives, Yuki Watanabe and Tomonobu Saito, boarded Japanese Airlines Flight 078 at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1. The aircraft took off at 11:55 p.m.
Their companions and co-accused, Kiyoto Imamura and Toshiya Fujita, were earlier deported by the Philippines on Tuesday, February 7. Kiyoto and Toshiya arrived at Narita airport outside Tokyo, where they were rearrested.
Before their deportation, the four fugitives were held at the Bureau of Immigration's (BI) Warden Facility and Protection Unit in Taguig City.
Philippine Justice Secretary Boying Remulla said that during a surprise inspection at their jail cells, they were caught with mobile phones that may have been used to run "criminal enterprises." Authorities also found several laptops, chargers, and cash inside the facility.
Tokyo sought the deportation of the four after local police obtained arrest warrants on suspicion of theft in connection with a scam targeting elderly people in Japan.
According to authorities, the Japanese detainees likely include a person or persons thought to have masterminded the robberies under the names "Luffy" and "Kim."
Watanabe was allegedly one of the leaders of the fraud group, which stole some 3.5 billion yen (P1.4 billion) in around 2,300 cases between November 2018 and June 2020, Japanese police said.
According to Department of Justice spokesperson Mico Clavano, both Manila and Tokyo still do not have clear proof that Watanabe is "Luffy".
Immigration commissioner Norman Tansingco said the bureau is investigating 36 of its personnel who allegedly allowed the Japanese fugitives to obtain gadgets while detained.
"They are presently reassigned into the administrative division of the main office," he told the media.
The BI also thanked the DOJ for expediting the local cases of the deportees. “This has been a constant frustration for immigration authorities,” Tansingco noted.
“There are many instances wherein we are unable to implement the deportation of a foreign national because of their pending cases here in the Philippines,” he added.
The DOJ confirmed that Watanabe and the group were charged with violating the law on violence against women and children in the Philippines.
An investigative source earlier told Kyodo News that Watanabe was hoping the case would enable him to "avoid" being sent back to Japan.
COINCIDING WITH MARCOS' TOKYO VISIT
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. said he believes that the deportation of the Japanese fugitives would ensure his smooth 5-day working visit to the country.
The chief executive is in Tokyo, until Feb 12, 2023.
"It was a request from the Japanese government and so we are always going to acquiesce to that request. We thought perhaps it would clear the decks as it were for the talks that we will have with the Japanese," he said.
He clarified however that the deportation process had started long before his working visit to Japan was finalized.
"Well, it was actually in the process already before the Japan trip was even planned. Nagkataon lang na, it was just by coincidence that it happened," he said.
"Although hindi na natin ginawang extradition kasi ang request nila para mas mabilis mag-deport na lang. So that’s precisely what we did," he said.
— With reports from Reiniel Pawid, Johnson Manabat, and Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News; Kyodo News; Agence France-Presse