Dozens of citizens, including Colombia’s former vice-president, have asked the Constitutional Court to revoke President Ivan Duque’s budget financing, claiming the plan is unconstitutional.
Procedural errors during the passing of the financing bill last year violated the country’s constitution, according to former Vice-President German Vargas who is proposing that the funds raised by the legislation be returned.
In the writ obtained by Bloomberg, the former vice-president argues that the constitution requires that all bills be first published before approval by a congressional committee, which did not happen last year.
“The representatives on December 19, 2018 only saw the bill for debate in the plenary of the Chamber, but not the modifications that were made the night of December 18 in the Senate,” according to Vargas.
The congressmen did not know what they were voting for… the absence of the debates has substantial significance, since no important modifications were discussed, violating the democratic principle and political participation in the negotiation of the law.
Text of lawsuit
According to former Constitutional Court president, Jose Gregorio Hernandez, the procedural error is indeed grounds for repealing the law.
“The court should declare the whole financing law unconstitutional as the argument is well founded in the law,” Hernandez told Bloomberg.
“The only option for the government is to present another tax bill,” the former court president added.
Hernandez highlighted the fact there is precedent for such a decision with the tribunal repealing the National Development Plan of former President Andres Pastrana in 2000 due to similar procedural errors.
In response to the lawsuit, the president’s office responded that “none of the alleged irregularities were incurred,” claiming that the legislators “did debate and voted on the title of the project.”
The legislation has so far raised approximately half of the $4 billion (COP14 trillion) that the government originally sought.
President Duque’s has come in for severe criticism over his tax reform, which increased taxes for lower income families and lowered those of middle and upper earners.
During last year’s presidential election campaign, Duque vowed to “lower taxes” and prevent “Colombia turning into a second Venezuela.”
Few voters, however, were aware that he exclusively referred to corporate taxes in his government proposals. New income taxes imposed on the middle class sunk his approval rating in November after the bill was first proposed by Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla.
Should the Constitutional Court repeal his tax bill, it will be another embarrassment for the president and could threaten his entire development plan for the coming four years.