MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine justice secretary on Monday, January 30, gave a "firm commitment" for the speedy deportation of four Japanese who are suspected to have masterminded the string of home invasion cases and robberies across several areas in Japan.
In a coordination meeting with the Japanese embassy in Manila on Monday afternoon, the Department of Justice was presented "four outstanding arrest warrants, which have been pending in Japan for some years now," the DOJ’s spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Jose Dominic Clavano said in a statement.
"This is the basis for the request for deportation of the four Japanese nationals from the Philippines to Japan," the spokesman added.
"DOJ Secretary Remulla has given a firm commitment to expedite the process of deportation and has vowed cooperation with the Japanese embassy and government on the matter," the agency spokesman said.
Earlier, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told journalists that if documents and other requirements were in order, the process of deporting the suspects would be completed in "a matter of days."
Syndicate Operations via Telegram App
The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department told journalists on Friday that the four suspects, including the possible ring leader, have been the subjects of arrest warrants since 2019, when their phone scam operations targeting elderly people were busted.
When the phone scam started to become less profitable — thanks to security measures introduced by Japanese authorities — the syndicate may have resorted to physically robbing the houses of the elderly, according to a report by Nikkei Asia. They were operating across several areas in Japan, not just in Tokyo.
A man named Yuki Watanabe was the alleged ringleader. He reportedly gave instructions to his recruits in Japan from his detention facility in Manila through the messaging app Telegram, the Philippine justice secretary told Kyodo. The suspect went by the alias "Luffy" when communicating with his operators in Japan.
Before his meeting with Ambassador KOSHIKAWA Kazuhiko, Secretary Remulla had said that 17 Japanese nationals were in the custody of Philippine immigration authorities. He added that they were waiting for the Japanese police to clearly identify the suspects.
The justice secretary said his agency did not want to violate the rights of the rest of those being held by the immigration bureau by deporting all of them to Japan.
The Bureau of Immigration, which has custody of the Japanese suspects, is under the Department of Justice.
Concocted Cases to Avoid Deportation
Remulla also said they were checking if the suspects were the subject of pending cases in the Philippines because deporting them would then be a decision for the local courts to make.
"We will look at the records. As I said earlier, we will not violate any rights of people who will be deported. We will make sure the cases against them [here, if any] are dismissed…before we deport anybody," Remulla said earlier.
"If some people are immediately free to be deported and the deportation proceedings are held properly, then we can deport them as it happens," he continued.
Remulla said he was aware that many of those detained were trying to avoid deportation by having concocted cases filed against them in the Philippines. This modus operandi is being investigated.
Watanabe or "Luffy" himself is detained in the Philippines following his arrest in May 2021 for another crime.
Japan has no extradition treaty with the Philippines, but Secretary Remulla said this does not present a stumbling block to the proceedings.
"It does not need any extradition because this is just a request for deportation — which is good by us, because when there are undesirable aliens in our country, we’d rather deport them to the port of origin," he said.
Author: JAPAN Forward