Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Tuesday vowed to prevent the Philippines from being a haven for transnational fugitives evading prosecution in their home countries
Remulla issued the pledge on the heels of Tuesday’s deportation of two Japanese nationals suspected of being the leaders of a crime syndicate in Japan.
Two more Japanese fugitives, Tomonobu Saito and Yuki Watanabe, are set for deportation today. The Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed the criminal charges against Saito and Watanabe, in effect, paving their way for their deportation.
The DOJ shipped out on Tuesday Imamura Kiyoto and Fujita Toshiya on board a Japan Airlines flight 746 bound for Narita, Japan.
The four Japanese nationals were previously detained at the Bureau of Immigration (BI), and the Japanese government asked Manila for their deportation.
The DOJ said the deportees had been “identified by Japanese police to be the leaders of a criminal organization in their home country and have been charged with robbery and theft.”
The DOJ had expressed hopes that the actions taken against the Japanese fugitives “signal to the international community that we are willing to cooperate in the fight against criminality.”
In dismissing the criminal charges against Saito and Watanabe, Remulla said the Pasay City RTC acted on the motions of government prosecutors to withdraw the complaints.
“The court upheld the grounds that we have been speaking about these cases looking like fabricated cases, done as an afterthought or only as a means of frustrating the government to deport the fugitives,” Remulla said.
The Justice Secretary expressed doubts that the private complainants will be able to appeal the dismissal which is tantamount to an acquittal.
He had earlier said that many cases filed against Japanese nationals detained by the BI were “contrived charges” to prevent their deportation.
Should the private complainants insist on filing appeals, Remulla said they will need the conformity of the prosecutors or the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
He said “we are now auditing all the persons detained in the Bureau of Immigration to see if there are other similar cases where deportation is being held off by cases so that we can deal with them.”
“We will have to be facing cases like these from other countries that we have to correct,” he said.
“We intend to cooperate with the other police forces who want to get fugitives from Philippine custody,” he said.
Japanese news outlets and social media have been captivated by the crimes that allegedly involved ringleaders based in the Southeast Asian country.
Low-level criminals arrested in Japan told police they received instructions from a person or several people who used the name “Luffy” via the Telegram messenger app.
Monkey D. Luffy is the lead character of the hugely popular “One Piece” manga, a straw hat-wearing pirate hunting for a coveted treasure.
Officials escorted Kiyoto Imamura and Toshiya Fujita, who were both handcuffed, into a Japan Airlines jet at Manila airport.
The two deportees would be accompanied by Japanese police to Tokyo, Philippines Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla told reporters.
The four men were held at an immigration detention facility in Manila, where they were caught with cell phones that may have been used to run “criminal enterprises”, Remulla told reporters last week.
Criminals were reportedly given orders to carry out break-ins or fraud. Japanese national broadcaster NHK said more than 70 people have been apprehended.
The group was thought to be behind 2,300 cases of fraud worth 3.5 billion yen ($26.4 million), NHK said.
It has also been connected to a series of break-ins in Tokyo, including one that ended with the murder of 90-year-old Kinuyo Oshio, who was found dead at her home on January 19.
As Japan and the Philippines do not have an extradition treaty, local cases already filed against the suspects had to be cleared before they could leave.