One Year After the Rufi Incident, Investigation into Japanese Youth’s Death in the Philippines | FRIDAY DIGITAL

One Year After the Rufi Incident, Investigation into Japanese Youth’s Death in the Philippines

Nonfiction Writer Takehide Mizutani Approaches the Dark Side of the Philippines

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Exterior view of the apartment where S committed suicide.

The four-story apartment building was quite old, with darkened mortar walls in places. The first floor was covered by a steel fence, and power lines running across the poles were intricately intertwined. At a glance, one could imagine that the residents’ standard of living was not so affluent.

I wondered if he was one of them.

Manila Bay, which stretches to the west of the Philippine capital, Manila, is famous for its beautiful sunsets. The apartment stood on a narrow street slightly off Roxas Boulevard, which runs north-south on that side of the bay. It was in a residential area where ordinary Filipinos lived, far from Makati, the business district where many Japanese people live, and Ermita Malate, where foreign tourists gather.

In June 2008, a Japanese man, S. (24 at the time), from Hyogo Prefecture, was found dead by hanging in a room on the third floor of the apartment. According to the Philippine police, the death is believed to be a suicide; S was, until shortly before his death, a minor member of the “Rufi” group, a criminal group based in the Philippines that perpetrated special fraud. —–.

A man I know suspects he may have been murdered.

I first learned of this news in mid-December of last year, just before the end of the year. In the parking lot of a convenience store in the Kanto region, a male acquaintance of S revealed, “The local police have confirmed that S committed suicide.

The local police are calling S’s death a suicide, but I think he was actually murdered. When I was in Manila, I was working as a kakeko in the same group as S. I was paid well, so I was able to make a living. However, I left the group together in the summer of ’19 due to some interpersonal conflicts. I owe S a debt of gratitude, so I wanted to reveal the truth. ……”

A male acquaintance of mine was also attacked once in Manila by a member of the group and stabbed in the thigh of his leg with a butterfly knife. Although his life was not in danger, it was S who took care of his daily life, including taking him to the hospital at that time. After recovering, he and S spent their days moving from one cheap hotel to another. Around March 2008, when he went to the Immigration Bureau to apply for an extension of his stay in Japan, he was taken into custody. He was transferred to an alien detention facility at the Immigration Bureau and lost contact with S. It was several months later that S passed away. I wondered if he might have been put in the same kind of danger.

After that, a male acquaintance of mine was deported to Japan with a hazy feeling in his heart. He was interrogated by the Japanese police, but his disposition was withheld.

Filipino investigator explains S’s suicide.

If the man’s acquaintance is correct, S. was killed by another person disguised as a suicide.

I have been covering Japanese cases in Manila for many years and have encountered a similar case only once. So it is not impossible, but I felt that there was insufficient evidence to support it in S’s case. However, I thought that I could not ignore the testimony of a male acquaintance of mine who had shared a meal with S. As I was in Manila in late January of this year, I went to the Pasay Police Station of the Metropolitan Police Department, which was in charge of the crime scene. The Filipino investigator in charge of the case still remembered the scene well.

The deceased, S., had pulled a bed sheet over the door and hung himself with it. There were no external injuries to his body, and there were no signs that the room had been ransacked. Based on these circumstances, we ruled it a suicide.”

The investigator in charge of the case responded politely and sincerely to my questions. If the investigator had made a murder look like a suicide, he would not have been interested in being interviewed by the media. Therefore, I thought that I could trust the judgment of the investigator in charge.

The first person to discover the body was the caretaker of the apartment. A neighbor reported a strange odor coming from S’s room, and he rushed to the room, but the door was locked. It was a locked room. They looked for a duplicate key but could not find one, and when they peeked inside through the window of an adjoining room, they found S. hanging by his neck in his underpants. The investigator in charge of the case also added this explanation as another factor that ruled out the possibility of a homicide.

At the time, the city was in lockdown due to the spread of the new strain of corona, and it was not an easy situation for a stranger to enter S.’s apartment because he would have had to have a quarantine pass.

It was natural to assume that S. had taken his own life for some reason. The investigator in charge of the case continued.

However, we also found the passport of another Japanese man, Y, in S’s room, and we know that they lived together.

So why did S choose to die? Behind the story lies the harsh reality that young people who have taken up part-time jobs in the black market face.

The caretaker of the apartment, drawing a diagram in his notebook, explaining what was going on at the time of S’s suicide.

Y, who lived with him, was also a kakeko. He is still hiding in the Philippines, and a warrant for his arrest has been issued by Japan for his involvement in a special fraud. He is also on the list of persons to be deported by the Philippine Bureau of Immigration.

According to the investigator in charge, three months before S’s death, Y left the apartment and never came back, and it seems that their relationship was not so good: S lived alone, but he did not have a quarantine pass, which is required when going out, and he had trouble buying food. The apartment manager’s story also revealed S’s difficulties in making a living.

S. had been in arrears of rent for two months just before he passed away. The business he was working on in Japan was not going well in Corona, and he said he had no money coming in.

The rent was 15,000 pesos (about 40,000 yen) per month, or two months’ worth, which means that S. ended his life without being able to come up with the 80,000 yen he owed. Did he have any relatives in Japan whom he could rely on? A male acquaintance explains S’s background as follows.

S was originally a child in Japan. When the izakaya he was managing went bad, he took up a black market job. When he visited his target’s house, he got into a dispute, and they took a fake ID with his photo. So I thought I might be exposed and arrested in Japan, so I went to the Philippines to escape.

S had no intention of returning to Japan.

In Japan, I ran away from home, and although I was a single parent, I had lost contact with her.

While she was a kakeko in the Philippines, she was able to make a reasonable living, but once she left the group, she had to fend for herself in an unfamiliar environment without any guarantees. I had no contact with the men I knew in the camps and had no one else to turn to because of the complicated relationships that existed because of the criminal organization. Moreover, at the time, the lockdown severely restricted their ability to leave the house. If they could not understand the language, they would have been lost. The combination of these factors may have driven him into a mental corner and led to his suicide.

What emerges from S’s death is the lonely end of his life in a foreign country where he arrived after taking a part-time job in the dark. According to the Immigration Bureau, there are at least a dozen remnants of Ralphie’s gang still hiding in the Philippines. Perhaps they, too, are surviving with similar feelings as S.

  • Interview, text, PHOTO Takehide Mizutani

    Takehide Mizutani was born in Mie Prefecture in 1975. He won the 9th Ken Kaiko Nonfiction Award for his book "Men Who Abandoned Japan: Impoverished Japanese Living in the Philippines. His latest book is "Reporto: International Romance Fraud. He has covered the war in Ukraine and other conflicts around the world.

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