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Marcos: Deportation of ‘Luffy’ suspects ‘cleared decks’ for talks in Japan

TOKYO —President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. said the deportation of Japanese citizens allegedly involved in scams and robberies in their country while detained in the Philippines paved the way for his smooth five-day working visit here.

“We thought, perhaps, it would clear the decks… for the talks that we’re going to have with the Japanese,” Marcos told reporters in an interview while aboard the PR001, which touched down at the Haneda airport at 5:35 p.m. local time on Wednesday.

On the eve of Marcos’ visit, Manila deported two of four Japanese nationals, Toshiya Fujita and Kiyoto Imamura, who were involved in organized robberies across Japan.

Two others—the alleged mastermind Yuki Watanabe and Kojima Tomonobu—will be sent back late Wednesday night.

The President said the deportation of the Japanese suspects “was actually in the process already before the Japan trip was even planned.”

“It was just by coincidence that it happened,” Marcos said.

“Of course, it cannot hurt because it is a request from the Japanese government and so we are always going to acquiesce to that request,” he added.

The deportation took place four years after Japan made its first request to send back the detainees in 2019.

The Japanese embassy in Manila lauded the Philippine government's "constructive" response and cooperation on the deportation of its citizens.

The Department of Foreign Affairs had said that the “Luffy” controversy would not affect the President’s trip to Japan, which will conclude on February 12.

“Well, we basically followed the same criteria as an extradition. Although, hindi na nating ginawang extradition kasi ang request nila para mabilis, deport na lang. That’s precisely what we did,” Marcos said.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said one of the suspects is using the alias "Luffy," a character in the Japanese manga "One Piece."

The four detainees were reportedly involved in at least 14 robberies across several Japanese prefectures and the murder of a 90-year-old woman in a suburb in Tokyo, garnering national attention in Japan.—LDF, GMA Integrated News