Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday called for two extraordinary meetings of Congress scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday in order to reverse the approval of a highly controversial judicial reform.
“I convoke these sessions not only because it is my constitutional obligation, but also because it is my duty to avoid the institutional and judicial chaos that a coming into force of the judicial reform would cause,” Santos said in a televised broadcast
The final approval of the reform, done in a closed-doors session of a Congressional committee, caused wide indignation and public naming and shaming of the congressmen who approved and amended the government-initiated reform.
The final text of the mysterious reform has remained unknown as Senate President Juan Manuel Corzo refused to release the bill to the public.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, rumors had surged in Colombia’s capital Bogota Tuesday that congressmen might avoid the extraordinary sessions out of fear for further embarrassment and lawsuits over their legislative behavior, thus making it impossible to get enough votes to officially bury the reform.
Both Santos and Colombia’s prosecutor general assured lawmakers they could not be criminally investigated for their actions in Congress that led to the approval of a reform that would not only grant ample benefits for congressmen under criminal investigation and according to the president would violate the constitution.
After Santos refused to ratify the reform last week, the final text of the bill was never released by the Senate to avoid further smearing of congressmen who in the last minute and behind closed doors had added clauses that would favor lawmakers in legal trouble.
Santos assured congressmen not to worry about any legal consequences of their widely criticized actions and said he assumed full responsibility of the failed reform.
“I, as President of the Republic, as head of state forced to comply with the constitution, assume political and legal responsibility for the objections that have surged and for the extraordinary sessions I am convoking,” Santos said.
Earlier Tuesday, Colombia’s chief prosecutor said that it was constitutionally impossible to take legal or disciplinary actions against the 59 senators and 114 representatives to the House who had approved the justice reform.
“No congressman is criminally or disciplinarily responsible for their opinions and votes or the legal positions they have taken in the course of an administrative act,” said Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre.
The failing of the justice reform, originally proposed by the Santos administration but thoroughly altered by Congress, already forced Justice Minister Juan Carlos Esguerra to resign.