The Philippines may repatriate two of the four suspects in a string of robberies across Japan as early as next week, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Friday.
The Justice Department announced the two men have been cleared of local charges and are now ready to be deported. Remulla identified one of the two as Toshiya Fujita.
Japan has sought the transfer of all four Japanese suspects after police obtained arrest warrants on suspicion of theft in connection with a scam targeting elderly people in the country.
The other suspect set for deportation is likely to be Kiyoto Imamura, as Remulla previously said a local case against him was dropped last month.
The Philippines has said it cannot deport individuals on trial, but Remulla believed the local charges against the four suspects had been made up so they could avoid deportation.
"If we cannot deport them at the same time, we will deport them two by two," Remulla said. Japanese authorities want the four to be returned at the same time.
Remulla also said each of the remaining two suspects still have one local charge pending in a Manila court.
The Philippine government is proceeding with arrangements toward handover of the four suspects ahead of a visit by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to Japan from Wednesday.
The Philippines is also set to turn over confiscated mobile phones to the Japanese authorities as they were possibly used by the suspects to remotely coordinate the robberies from the immigration facility in Manila through an encrypted messaging app.