WITH the passing of former Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza, the respondents in the $329-million national broadband network (NBN) deal was trimmed down to three.
Left to face the graft charge on the botched telecommunications deal are former President and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga, her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and former Elections chair Benjamin Abalos.
On Monday, Mendoza died of stroke at the age of 67, his son Rep. Mark Mendoza announced.
As early as last year, Mendoza already succumbed to stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to talk.
In May 2012, Mendoza was already wheelchair-bound during his NBN deal arraignment at the Sandiganbayan.
Although unable to talk, the former Cabinet secretary entered his “not guilty” plea through his lawyer Alexander Poblador.
Mendoza appeared before the court to be arraigned where his family members and doctor assisted him and a private nurse pushed his wheelchair.
During the stipulation of the plea, Mendoza only nodded after Associate Justice Gregory Ong asked if he will enter a “not guilty” plea.
Poblador told in open court that his client, although slowly recovering, could not still verbally respond owing to the stroke that downed him.
On March 13, he was still seen in a good state when he posted bail before the Sandiganbayan. Four days after reports broke that during a birthday celebration of the younger Mendoza, the former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) chief complained of chest pain and breathing shortness.
He was rushed to Saint Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City (Metro Manila) where he was confirmed to have had stroke.
After arraignment, Mendoza was immediately scooted off the building.
Because of Mendoza’s passing, only the Pampanga lawmaker, her husband and Abalos are left to answer the allegations surrounding the deal with Chinese firm Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) Inc.
Staff at the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division said that the trial is still at the prosecution stage. No defendant has still presented a case.
In his motion to the Office of the Ombudsman, Mendoza said that the NBN-ZTE deal was “actually advantageous” to the government because the funding source of the deal has been disclosed and clear.
The transaction could generate savings of about P2 billion, he said.
However, with his passing, Mendoza could no longer substantiate these.
It is expected that Poblador will present a formal notice of death to fully strike out Mendoza’s name in the graft case, resulting in any of his criminal liability automatically extinguished.