REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES vs. EDMUNDO L. TAN & THE HONORABLE SANDIGANBAYAN (Fifth Division), G.R. No. 145255. March 30, 2004.
“x x x.
On July 21, 1998, private respondent filed a motion for exclusion as party-defendant, maintaining that his participation in the acts charged was in furtherance of legitimate lawyering in line with his work as an associate of ACCRA Law Firm at the time [said] acts charged were supposed to have been committed by his co-defendants, and that this Courts ruling in Regala v. Sandiganbayan, 262 SCRA 123 (1996), upon which the Sandiganbayan anchored its Resolution ordering his exclusion as party-defendant, is applicable in light of the similarity between the factual circumstances of his supposed involvement and those of the petitioners in Regala.
X x x.
In the meantime, almost a decade after the complaint was filed, the Sandiganbayan, by Resolution of September 17, 2001,granted the separate motions to dismiss filed by Cojuangco, Gutierrez and Eusebio Tan, and Ongsiako, as well as that of Conrado Estrella. Accordingly, the complaint was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, x x x.
Aggrieved by the Sandiganbayans dismissal of its complaint, petitioner filed on October 9, 2001 a motion for reconsideration,which the Sandiganbayan denied by Resolution of April 23, 2002. Petitioner thereupon assailed the dismissal by petition for review with this Court, docketed as G.R. No. 153272, which was denied by Resolution of July 24, 2002 in this wise: x x x.
X x x.
The case of Garron v. Arca and Pineda, 88 Phil. 490 (1951), is instructive. A petition for certiorari was filed with this Court, arising from a complaint for replevin. Before the petition could be acted upon, the complaint for replevin was dismissed. This Court held that a decision in the petition became unnecessary, the same having become moot.
We cannot quite agree with this plea much as we desire to rule on the merits of the case. The duty of the court is to decide actual controversies, not mere hypothetical cases. When this case was brought to this Court, there was actual controversy. Several issues were raised. The main purpose is to have the replevin case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. This purpose however has already been accomplished, although on a different ground. If the petitioners wanted to have the case decided on the merits so that a ruling may be had on the issue of jurisdiction or on the matter affecting ownership of the articles involved, they should have appealed from the order of the dismissal in the replevin case. This they failed to do. The replevin case has ceased to have legal existence. And as this case of certiorari is but an outgrowth of the main case, it must fall on its own weight. The order of dismissal is now final in character and cannot be revived. There is, therefore, no point to continue with this case when the main case is nonexistent. This Court finds no other alternative than to dismiss it without prejudice on the part of the petitioners to take such action as may be proper relative to the articles seized from Domingo Pineda.(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
The rule is well-settled that for a court to exercise its power of adjudication, there must be an actual case or controversy one which involves a conflict of legal rights, an assertion of opposite legal claims susceptible of judicial resolution; the case must not be moot or academic or based on extra-legal or other similar considerations not cognizable by a court of justice. Where the issue has become moot and academic, there is no justiciable controversy, and an adjudication thereon would be of no practical use or valueas courts do not sit to adjudicate mere academic questions to satisfy scholarly interest, however intellectually challenging.
That private respondent did not file a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan over the subject matter, he having instead filed a motion for exclusion as party defendant, is of no moment. Jurisdiction of courts over the subject matter is conferred exclusively by the Constitution and by law. It is determined by the allegations of the complaint and cannot be made to depend on the defenses of private respondent. The Sandiganbayan’s lack of jurisdiction over the complaint could not be waived by private respondent or cured by his silence, acquiescence or even express consent.
In fine, the dismissal of the complaint by the Sandiganbayan for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter which this Court affirmed with finality in G.R. No. 153272 has rendered the present petition moot and academic.
X x x.”