A FORMER policeman believed to be under the influence of drugs has been blamed for a fire that hit Barangay Labangon, Cebu City, early dawn on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021, which left 113 families and 460 individuals homeless.
Witnesses said the ex-cop, identified as Richard Sumalinog Tagadiad, set his house on fire while hallucinating that ants were out to kill him.
“Nangita siya sa mga hulmigas nagbitbit sa lighter kay duslitan niya. Nasugatan sa among silingan tama daw kaayo (A neighbor saw him looking for ants bringing a lighter and saying that he will burn them. He was so high on drugs),” said Carol Mosqueda, a daycare teacher in Barangay Labangon.
The fire which started in Tagadiad’s house at around 2:39 a.m. quickly spread to 80 other homes and damaged P1.5 million worth of properties along 229 F. Salvador Ext. Sitio Labsalex.
The blaze was put out by firefighters more than an hour later at 4:13 a.m.
Witnesses said after setting his two-story house on fire, the former police staff sergeant ran off and stayed at a nearby bakeshop smoking and simply eating “puto” (a Filipino steamed rice cake).
Neighbors who saw him there beat him up.
Not a first
This was not the first time Tagadiad tried to burn his house, police investigators said.
He reportedly burned several candles on the second floor of his house each time he was very high on drugs, witnesses told police.
Neighbors would then rush to his house and put out the fires while reminding him of the danger.
A former member of the PNP Cebu Provincial Office, Tagadiad lived alone.
Fire investigator SFO1 Novo Erana told Superbalita Cebu that a case of arson will be filed against Tagadiad using testimonies from at least three witnesses.
One of the complainants, a policeman, is Tagadiad’s cousin who lived right across the suspect and whose house was also razed to the ground when Tagadiad deliberately set his house on fire.
“Sige ni siyag bisyo sumala sa mga silingan, suyop shabu. Unya nagtama daw sa wala mahitabo, nagdalag kandila magdaob sa taas (He was always on drugs, according to his neighbors. He would sniff shabu and when he got high, he would burn candles on the second floor),” Erana said.
Labangon police chief Major Janelito Marquez said the suspect is now under their custody as criminal charges will be filed against him and also for his safety considering that his neighbors were very mad at him.
Police and fire investigators described Tagadiad as mentally disturbed and depressed.
They could not get a clear statement from him.