NPA Dies in Manila Prison

A New People’s Army rebel died Oct. 21 while detained at the Maximum Security Compound of the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa after suffering from severe diarrhea and mental disturbance.


A New People’s Army rebel died Oct. 21 while detained at the Maximum Security Compound of the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa after suffering from severe diarrhea and mental disturbance.

Norberto Botalon , 44, a.k.a Ka Alex, an NPA guerilla from Sorsogon, a province 373 kms. south of Manila, died at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Hospital.

Attending physician Ma. Lourdes Razon, MD, signed the death certificate which states Botalon died of cardio respiratory arrest secondary to typhoid fever. He was declared dead at exactly 6:20 p.m..


Botalon, a coconut farmer from Barangay (Village) Uraroy, Sorsogon, Sorsogon, joined the NPA in 1994 and served as a combatant for eight years. He, together with three others (Armando Vidar, Sonny Marbella and Marianito Jasareno Jr.), was captured by the military on Feb. 20, 2002 in a raid in Barangay Salvacion, same municipality.

The four were charged with criminal crimes: violation of Presidential Decree 1866 (Illegal Possession of Firearms and Ammunition) and Robbery with Homicide. They were detained for one year and seven months at the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) in Bolago town, Sorsogon province.

The spokesperson of the Sorsogon chapter of the human rights alliance Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) scored how the four were charged with criminal offenses, instead of political, as decreed under the Amado Hernandez Doctrine.

Rey Hahabag said the four were captured during a military raid and should be treated as prisoners of war and charged with rebellion, a bailable offense.

One of the captives, Jasareno, was 16 years old, a minor, at the time of arrest and released from detention in March 2002. The three others including Botalon were meted the death penalty by Judge Honesto Villamor of Branch 52 of the Sorsogon Regional Regional Court Sept. 20 for their Robbery with Homicide case. Trial of their IPFA case is on going at Branch 51, also of the Sorsogon RTC, under Judge Jose L. Madrid.

The three were transferred to the Death Row of the NBP on Sept. 26.


In an interview with Bulatlat, Botalon’s wife, Merly, said her husband was afflicted with asthma and diabetes even before he was captured. “Sakitin talaga sya,” (He was really sickly) she said.

Merly said his condition worsened after arrest. After four months in detention, Merly noticed severe changes in his behavior. She said that during her visits to his detention cell in Sorsogon, his prison mates would tell her that her husband would neither eat nor sleep for several days and also refused to speak with anybody. It was at this point that Merly realized her husband was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Karapatan records show Botalon was brought five times to the Cadlan Mental Hospital in Pili town in the province of Camarines Sur.

Despite Botalon’s mental disturbance, he and his co-accused were convicted of the Robbery with Homicide and sentenced to death.

After the sentencing, Merly said her husband’s condition turned from bad to worse.

Last conversation

It was Sept. 25, the day before Botalon was transferred from Sorsogon to the NBP, that Merly was able to talk with her husband for the last time.

Hindi niya matanggap ang nangyari sa kanya,” (He could not take what had happened to him) she said.

Sabi nya, ako na daw muna ang magpakulong at aayusin niya ang kanyang kaso. Kapag naayos na, tutubusin na niya ako dito sa preso,” (He said I should replace him in prison while he fixes his case. And as soon as he does, he will get me out of prison) she recalled her husband as saying.

Merly promised to visit him at the NBP after a month. “Maghahanap lang ako ng pamasahe,” (I will only find money for transportation) she told him. Little did she know it was the last time they would talk.

Hahabag said that with Botalon’s condition, he should not have been transferred to Manila.

At death row

The political prisoners who saw Botalon at the NBP told Karapatan that his condition was getting worse everyday.

Imelda Tendencia-Continente, Karapatan staff member and wife of political prisoner Donato Continente, said that upon learning of Botalon’s condition, their office asked the assistance of doctors from the Council of Health and Development (CHD) which has doctors who conduct regular medical check-ups of political prisoners.

CHD doctors thus visited the NBP on Oct. 11 but were denied entrance by the guards. According to Continente, the doctors were told that their permit to enter the NBP was lost.

CHD’s Dr. Reggie Pamugas said they have been trying to schedule a medical check-up of all the political prisoners and have followed up their request on July 8 and August 11, and again on Oct. 11 when they went specifically for Botalon. The doctors were never allowed entry.

Meanwhile, Botalon’s death certificate stated that he was transferred to the NBP Hospital on Sept. 28 and stayed there until he died. Political prisoners however reported that Botalon was confined at the hospital’s Ward 4, the psychiatric ward. They believed he was dehydrated due to severe diarrhea.

Hahabag accused the government of neglecting Botalon, saying the prisoners’s health was not among government’s priority.

Hahabag said it was a violation of the Part IV Article 4 of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which states, in part: 2.) The wounded and the sick shall be collected and cared for by the part to the armed conflict which has them in custody or responsibility; and 6.) All persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict shall be treated humanely… be afforded safeguards as regards to health… On humanitarian or other reasonable grounds, such persons shall be considered for safe release.

The CARHRIHL is a human rights and international humanitarian law agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) signed on August 1998.

Both parties have agreed to put up an independent body, the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), to observe whether both parties carry out the agreement. This officially became operational upon its launching in April . It’s Joint Secretariat (JS) holds office in Cubao, Quezon City. (

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