Timeline: Leila de Lima’s legal battle
• Aug. 17 – Former President Rodrigo Duterte links a senator to the illegal drug trade, calling her an “immoral woman.” He claims the senator’s driver was also her “lover” and collected drug payoffs for her.
Duterte later identifies the senator as Leila de Lima, his staunchest critic who had earlier pursued an investigation of the killings attributed to the Davao Death Squad (DDS), a vigilante group that reportedly operated in Duterte’s bailiwick city.
• Aug. 22 – De Lima, as chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, starts an inquiry into the killings and questionable police operations under Duterte’s “war” on drugs.
• Aug. 25 – Duterte produces a so-called matrix to support his allegation linking De Lima to the drug trade.
• Sept. 19 – After 54 days and three public hearings of the De Lima-led probe, the Senate kicks her out from the chairmanship of the committee on justice and human rights. Sen. Richard Gordon becomes the new chair.
*Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano says “long-honored traditions of collegiality and civility” among senators were disregarded when De Lima presented confessed hit man Edgar Matobato, who would link Duterte to the DDS and its summary execution of crime suspects when he was Davao City mayor.
• Sept. 21 – Several gang leaders at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) testify at a House hearing that De Lima and her driver-bodyguard engaged in drug trafficking.
• Sept. 26 – Duterte, in a Palace speech, says De Lima “will be jailed, that is for sure, because of testimonial evidence.”
• December – The Senate drug war inquiry reaches a conclusion that the extrajudicial killings cannot be pinned on Duterte and the state security agencies.
• Feb. 17 – The Department of Justice (DOJ) files criminal charges against De Lima over allegations she presided over the illegal drug trade at the national penitentiary when she was justice secretary.
• Feb. 20 – Cases for three counts of illegal drug trading are raffled off to different branches of the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC). Branch 204 is handling Criminal Case No. (CCN) 17-165, where De Lima and her former aide Ronnie Dayan are accused of conspiracy to commit drug trading.
Branch 205 is handling CCN 17-166, with De Lima’s nephew Jose Adrian Dera as her coaccused. Branch 256 is hearing CCN 17-167, where she is accused of conspiring to trade drugs at NBP to raise money for her senatorial campaign in 2016.
• Feb. 24 – De Lima is arrested and detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center inside Camp Crame.
• March 30 – Judge Juanita Guerrero of the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 rejects the government’s move to consolidate the three cases, citing the distinct nature of each case.
• March 16 – The De Lima cases start drawing international attention. Less than three weeks after her arrest, the European Parliament adopts a resolution calling for her immediate release, citing concerns that the charges were “almost entirely fabricated.”
• July 19 – Twelve EU lawmakers are allowed to visit De Lima at Crame.
• Oct. 10 – The Supreme Court rejects her petition to quash her indictment for drug trafficking. It also ruled that the RTC and not the Sandiganbayan is the proper court to hear drug cases brought against public officials.
• Feb. 17 – De Lima is acquitted in CCN 17-166 after the court granted her demurrer on grounds that the evidence presented by the prosecutors were insufficient for a criminal conviction.
• Oct. 8 – De Lima seeks reelection and files her certificate of candidacy for the May 2022 senatorial race. Detained throughout the campaign period, she would get 7.2 million votes and rank 23rd in the final tally.
• April 28 – Rolan “Kerwin” Espinosa, a key witness against detained De Lima, recants and apologizes, saying he was only coerced and intimidated by the police into making allegations against her in exchange for the withdrawal of drug charges against him.
• April 30 – In an affidavit presented to the media, Rafael Ragos, the former chief of the Bureau of Corrections who accused De Lima of receiving bribes from convicted drug lords, also makes a retraction and says former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II “coerced” him to “admit something that did not happen.”
• May 13 – Dayan submits to the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 a new affidavit recanting his statements and accusing the late former Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rey Umali, who was then chair of the House committee on justice, of forcing him to testify against De Lima during the congressional inquiries.
• June – De Lima is granted a medical furlough and underwent vaginal hysterectomy with anterior and posterior colporrhaphy at Manila Doctors Hospital.
• Oct. 9 – She is taken hostage inside the PNP Custodial Center after three other detainees—all suspected members of the terror group Abu Sayyaf—tried to escape. One of them used an improvised knife (fashioned from a fork) to stab an officer bringing breakfast to the inmates. The three detainees were later shot dead and De Lima emerged unhurt—though deeply shaken—from the ordeal.
• Nov. 4 – Ragos affirms his recantation in court.
• April 19 – The Inquirer reports that state prosecutors have asked RTC Branch 204 to reopen CCN 17-165 so they could present a last-minute witness and other “rebuttal evidence” against De Lima.
• April 28 – RTC Branch 204 reopens that case, allowing the prosecution to present Demiteer Huerta, one of the lawyers from the Public Attorneys Office who assisted Ragos in executing affidavits against De Lima in 2016.