TIMELINE: De Lima's six-year struggle in prison

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Former Senator Leila De Lima, one of the staunchest critics of former President Rodrigo Duterte, has been in jail since 2017 on allegations she used drug money for her senatorial campaign in 2016, when she was Justice secretary.

But De Lima and human rights groups believe the drug charges against her were fabricated to silence her for investigating the Duterte administration's bloody war on drugs. Malacañang has repeatedly denied De Lima's allegations, saying the charges against her are being tried by the country's independent courts.

The detained former senator was so far acquitted in two of her three drug cases. The other one is still pending at the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.

Here's a timeline on the series of events that led to De Lima's arrest and six-year detention: 

December 15, 2014 – Then Justice Secretary De Lima led a raid at the New Bilibid Prison, where luxurious quarters of 19 drug lords were discovered. Illegal drugs, weapons, and several other smuggled items were confiscated by the police.

July 13, 2016 – De Lima filed a senate resolution initiating a probe into alleged extrajudicial killings that began since Duterte took office and believed to be related to his administration's war on drugs.

August 17, 2016 – Duterte confirmed De Lima was the person he was referring to in a previous briefing—when he said a lady senator had a driver/lover who had collected drug money to fund her campaign.

August 20, 2016 – De Lima said she is willing to resign and to be shot in front of Duterte if the drug allegations against here are proven true. She added that she received reports from "credible sources" that during the elections that year, some convicts in the national penitentiary were asked to testify against her and implicate her in the illegal drug trade.

August 25, 2016 – The government released a matrix showing personalities allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade inside the NBP. Among the personalities tagged were De Lima and then Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan.

September 15, 2016 – De Lima presented Edgar Matobato, who claims to be a former member of the 'Davao Death Squad'. Matobato linked Duterte to the killings perpetrated by the vigilante group—an allegation Malacanang vehemently denied.

September 19, 2016 – De Lima was ousted as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights. She was replaced by Senator Richard Gordon. It was Senator Manny Pacquiao who made a motion to declare the committee chairmanship and its membership vacant.

September 21, 2016 – High-profile inmates and drug lords paid De Lima millions of pesos to allow them to bring in illegal drugs and other contraband items inside the NBP, witnesses told a House hearing.

September 27, 2016 – In an interview with CNN Philippines, De Lima claimed it was Duterte who was behind the "massive demolition job" against her.

October 6, 2016 – During a House hearing, witnesses claimed that Ronnie Dayan—De Lima's former driver and bodyguard—used to collect drug money from inside the NBP.

November 22, 2016 – Dayan admitted having an affair with De Lima for seven years and their relationship ended in 2014.

November 24, 2016 – Dayan said it was De Lima who stopped him from testifying in a House probe in October. He testified that he told his daughter to text De Lima of his plan to attend the probe, but the senator allegedly replied that he should skip it.

February 23, 2017 – The Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court issued an arrest warrant against De Lima for violation of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

February 24, 2017 – De Lima was arrested and detained at the Philippine National Police Headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

March 16 and July 19, 2017 – De Lima’s case caught international attention as the European Parliament called for her immediate release. In July, a 12-member delegation from EU visited De Lima at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

October 10, 2017 – The Supreme Court en banc voted 9-6 to dismiss the detained senator's bid to dismiss the arrest warrant issued against her. The high court junked De Lima's plea for lack of merit.

January 2018 – Some judges from the various branches of Muntinlupa RTC inhibited themselves from hearing the case of De Lima for several reasons. Judge Antoinetta Pablo-Medina of Branch 276 inhibited herself from the case, saying she was a classmate of De Lima. Judge Myra Bayot-Quiambao of Branch 203 also inhibited, citing her close personal relationship with a member of the prosecution panel.

June 6, 2018 – The Supreme Court denied with finality the petition of De Lima on her drug-related arrest. The high court dismissed the senator's petition on October 10, 2017, but De Lima’s camp filed another motion for reconsideration in November of the same year.

Jully 11, 2018 – The PNP denied the request of Senate President Vicente Sotto III to allow De Lima to hold Senate hearings in jail. The PNP said it is not within its jurisdiction to grant such request.

February 8, 2019 – The Senate Minority bloc filed a resolution calling on the Philippine government to follow the recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which called for De Lima's release. A similar resolution was also issued at the House of Representatives.

April 11, 2019 – The Philippine Senate filed a resolution slamming the move of their US counterparts who urged the national government to free De Lima. Philippine Senate Resolution 1037 called out the US Congress for "being an affront to the sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines and an undue interference on its judicial process."

March 14 and April 4, 2019 – Six American lawmakers filed a House Resolution calling on the Philippine government to release De Lima. The resolution was introduced by California Representative Jackie Speier. It was co-sponsored by Representatives James McGovern of Massachusetts, Henry Johnson of Georgia, Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Brad Sherman of California, and Lloyd Doggett of Texas. Nearly a month after, five American senators also filed a resolution calling for the release of De Lima. The bipartisan resolution was filed by US Senators Marco Rubio and Edward Markey.

July 18, 2019 – The PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group filed a complaint against key opposition figures, including De Lima, for inciting sedition over their supposed involvement in viral videos linking the Duterte family to drugs.

December 23, 2019 – The 2020 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill signed by then US President Donald Trump included a provision which bars Filipino public officials, who were involved in the arrest and detention of De Lima, from entering the US.

December 27, 2019 – President Duterte ordered the Bureau of Immigration to bar US Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy, who introduced the provision in the 2020 American budget to prohibit the entry of "foreign government officials involved in the wrongful imprisonment...of Senator Leila de Lima, who was arrested in the Philippines in 2017."

January 18, 2020 – De Lima said she filed a complaint against Duterte over the extrajudicial killings before the International Criminal Court.

January 22, 2020 – The Supreme Court dismissed De Lima's request for a writ of habeas data, a legal remedy that was supposed to protect her from Duterte's threats and verbal attacks.

January 2 and 9, 2020 – US lawmakers filed Senate Resolution 142 calling on the US government to impose sanctions on Philippine officials involved in the detention of De Lima—including the freezing of their assets. The resolution was passed a week after.

February 5 and 25, 2020 – De Lima appealed to the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to junk her case against Duterte in relation to his verbal attacks against her. Twenty days after, she submitted to the US government a list of people who were behind her detention and must be banned from entering the country.

July 20, 2020 - Following the death of high-profile drug convict and state witness Jaybee Sebastian, De Lima maintained Sebastian was pressured by Duterte to fabricate testimonies against her.

June 16 and 19, 2020 – De Lima filed a motion for bail before the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 166, saying the evidence presented against her was not strong. Three days after, the court's Branch 205 rejected De Lima's request to attend Senate sessions via video call from her cell in Camp Crame. The court said allowing her to virtually attend the sessions is "no different" from allowing her to attend physically.

August 14, 2020 – De Lima filed another motion for bail in her second drug case, insisting that the evidence against her is weak.

December 4. 2020 – Government prosecutors filed a petition for contempt against De Lima and her lawyers for making public statements on the testimonies of witnesses in one of her drug cases.

February 10, 2021 – The Supreme Court junked with finality its decision to deny the petition of De Lima for protection against Duterte's verbal threats and attacks.

February 17, 2021 – The Muntinlupa RTC Branch 2015 junked De Lima's drug case with co-accused Jose Adrian Dera. Dera's demurrer was denied but he was allowed to post bail. However, the same court did not dismiss a separate drug case with co-accused Ronnie Dayan. De Lima's demurrer to evidence and petition for bail were both denied by the court.

February 24, 2021 – De Lima’s camp maintained she did not receive ₱1.4 million in drug money from the late drug lord Jaybee Sebastian when she was Justice Secretary.

March 4, 2021 – De Lima and her lawyer Boni Tacardon asked the Muntinlupa RTC Branch 2015 to dismiss the contempt case filed against them by government lawyers over their statements on the testimonies of witnesses in one of her drug cases.

March 5, 2021 – The Muntinlupa RTC Branch 205 junked the appeal of De Lima and co-accused Dayan to dismiss their drug cases. The court reaffirmed its earlier decision, adding that De Lima and Dayan "must present their evidence to prove their innocence of the crime charged."

Oct. 8, 2021 – De Lima's detention did not stop her from filing her certificate of candidacy for reelection through her official representative and spokesperson, Atty. Dino De Leon. Despite being part of the opposition slate of the Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan tandem, she was later on prohibited from joining senatorial forums and debates, and even recording campaign video and audio materials inside prison. She has been relying on a standee and some representatives to woo voters for her on the campaign trail.

April 7, 2022 – De Lima refutes fake news about her health condition, revealing that her general routine checkup, which included a chest x-ray, a colonoscopy, some laboratory tests, and other medical procedures during her furlough did not yield any alarming results despite remaining in detention for years.

April 26, 2022 – Muntinlupa RTC reschedules the hearing of De Lima's drug case to May 30 after New Bilibid Prison inmate Joel Capones failed to show up in court due to "high risk security concerns."

April 28, 2022 – Self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa retracts his previous allegations that he had drug dealings with De Lima through Dayan in the Bilibid, writing in sworn affidavit he was only "coerced, pressured, intimidated, and seriously threatened by the police."

Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento earlier explained that the government did not cite Espinosa as a witness because they were already satisfied with the testimonies of former Bureau of Corrections chief Rafael Ragos and some inmates to convict De Lima.

April 30, 2022 – Like Espinosa, Ragos retracts his testimonies that he personally delivered money from Bilibid inmates to De Lima through Dayan on two occasions in 2012. He claims that then-Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre coerced him "to admit something that did not happen."

Aguirre denied this allegation in a statement a few days later. He questioned the timing and motive behind the retraction, as he maintained Ragos voluntarily testified against De Lima under oath.

May 13, 2022 – Dayan, the former bodyguard of De Lima and a co-accused in one of the drug cases, became the third to recant his allegations. 

He claimed he was told by the late House justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali to lie about receiving drug money for De Lima. Meanwhile, De Lima’s counsel Atty. Rolly Francis Peoro admitted there is no way to corroborate Dayan's allegation against the lawmaker who died in January 2021 due to cardiac arrest.

May 27, 2022 — Muntinlupa RTC Branch 206 dismissed state prosecutors’ petition to cite De Lima and one of her lawyers for indirect contempt for supposedly violating the sub judice rule. 

June 1, 2022 – De Lima’s camp shared copies of the counter-affidavits of Marcelo Adorco, another government witness, where he also withdrew his testimonies against the senator. Adorco said he was forced to make the claims for fear of his life.

The successive recantations sparked anew calls for De Lima's release

June 14, 2022 – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they will not drop charges against De Lima despite the witnesses’ retractions. He said the prosecutors handling the case have advised that “there is good reason to continue the active prosecution of the senator.” 

August 9, 2022 — The Office of the Ombudsman releases a copy of its Jan. 5 decision dismissing for lack of probable cause the bribery complaints against the now-former senator De Lima and Dayan.

August 18, 2022 — United States lawmakers led by US Senator Edward Markey were barred from visiting De Lima at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame after police said they lacked court clearance.

They were permitted to do so a day later after the Muntinlupa RTC granted the “extremely urgent motion” which De Lima filed.

September 6, 2022 — The Court of Appeals released its July 20 resolution where it again denied De Lima’s bid to include Ragos and several convict-witnesses as co-accused in the drug cases against her.

October 9, 2022 — De Lima was briefly held hostage by one of three inmates who attempted to escape the PNP Custodial Center.

She survived the incident. Two of the detainees were meanwhile shot dead by police as they were trying to flee, and the man who held De Lima captive was also killed in the process of negotiating the former senator’s release.

October 10, 2022 — PNP relieved the head of its custodial center following the hostage-taking. PNP Chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin also categorically denied that the inmates specifically targeted De Lima, saying it was "incidental" because the detainees cannot flee through the main gate. 

January 20, 2023 — The De Lima camp said it is studying the Supreme Court decision on the temporary release of Jessica Lucila "Gigi" Reyes, former aide of now Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile, who was detained for nearly nine years for plunder. The high court granted Reyes' petition for a writ of habeas corpus. 

A month after, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla suggested for the camp to do the same and said: "We will not object."

February 10, 2023 — The De Lima camp said it will again push for her temporary release through a supplemental motion for bail after Ragos ended his testimony to affirm his recantation. In October, Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 allowed Ragos to take the stand again. 

February 24, 2023 — Marking her sixth year in detention, De Lima filed a supplemental omnibus motion seeking anew outright case dismissal, immediate release, and bail. 

April 20, 2023 — Remulla said the DOJ will oppose De Lima's motion for bail if the former senator's camp insists grounds will be based on lack of evidence. He stressed humanitarian grounds will be the only reason acceptable to the government.

May 8, 2023 — The decision on De Lima's plea to post bail was put on hold due to problems during the prosecution's marking of evidence. Once Muntinlupa RTC Branch 256 rules on the formal offer of evidence, it can then tackle the former lawmaker's petition for bail. 

May 12, 2023 — The Muntinlupa RTC Branch 204 acquitted De Lima, almost a month after state prosecutors sought to reopen her trial amid the existence of a rebuttal evidence. 

CNN Philippines' Glee Jalea, Kristel Limpot, Jelo Mantaring, Eimor Santos, and Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.