Was deadly Molo blaze a case of arson?


By Jennifer P. Rendon

Three persons died in an early morning fire at Zone 3, Barangay Salvacion Habog Habog, Molo, Iloilo City on Dec. 16.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) – Iloilo City identified the fatalities as Elizabeth Jetano, a 65-year-old three-time stroke survivor; her son Niel, 27; and Niel’s son, 10-year-old Rain Gabriel.

Their bodies were found in one of the two rooms on the house’s ground floor.

Reports said the fire was reported at 4:29 a.m. on Saturday and had reached the fourth alarm.

It was put under control at 5:52 a.m. and the BFP declared a fire out at 6:59 a.m.

Initial probe showed that the fire originated from the Jetanos and quickly spread to adjacent houses and business and education structures.

BFP – Iloilo City pegged that the fire burned down 65 houses and establishments (63 totally destroyed and 2 partially damaged).

At least 71 families have been affected by the conflagration.

Damage to property is pegged at P 6,664,000.


Hours after the incident, no less than Fire Chief Superintendent Jerry Candido, BFP-6 regional director, visited the area to do his own investigation.

“I have to know if there are multiple points of origin. If there are multiple points of origin, it’s a suspected arson,” he said.

Candido said he found at least four points of origin, which are all near the floor. Usually, if it’s accidental fire, the origin is only in one area, he added.

Candido said accidental fires that are usually caused by short circuit of electrical wiring starts at the ceiling.

“In this case, there is an origin near the kitchen. However, the cabinets were not damaged,” he said.

Another origin point was also noted near the bedroom where the victims’ bodies were recovered.

Candido said they evaluated the burn debris over suspicion that the fire was intentionally done.

So far, evidence that has been recovered and the fire pattern suggested human intervention.

But Candido said he could not rule for now what was used in probably setting the house on fire.

“We have yet to have the arson laboratory result from the burn debris that we have recovered in the area,” he said.


The family has initially refused an autopsy but Candido said they would insist on the conduct of a post-mortem investigation.

“We would like to find out if they suffered injuries aside from burns. We would also want to know if they died before or after the conflagration,” he said.

Candido said the autopsy results would reinforce the evidence they have gathered.

He also noted that Niel’s skull has a sign that it could been struck with a hard object.

“We would know if they died of suffocation or if there were other reasons for their deaths,” he said.

According to Barangay Kagawad Nestor Jetano, he was at work when a relative informed him around 6:30 a.m. that a fire razed their house.

Nestor works as a security guard at City Proper district from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

He claimed to have personally asked for the schedule to look after his wife who suffered a stroke in 2011, 2014, and 2017.

Nestor said he knew about his two sons’ quarrel the night before the incident.

His son, Jeffrey, allegedly visited their house and had a fight with the youngest child, John Paul.

The fight allegedly went physical which prompted Jeffrey to put on blotter John Paul.

Nestor admitted that in a brood of six, John Paul was his problem child who frequently figures in fights.

This prompted Jeffrey, he added, to stay with his friends.

When he went home following the fire, Nestor claimed to have seen Jeffrey but John Paul was nowhere in sight.

Reports had it, though, that the latter had been invited to the Iloilo City Police Station 4 for questioning later that day.