Digong vs Leila: A battle over death

Senator Leila de Lima and President Rodrigo Duterte.

MANILA — Sen. Leila de Lima, arrested on Friday on drug trafficking charges, has waged a decade-long crusade to expose President Duterte as the leader of death squads that have killed thousands of people.

She insists Mr. Duterte’s administration has manufactured the charges to silence her investigations into the killings allegedly orchestrated by Mr. Duterte during his time as mayor of Davao City, then for the past eight months as President.

Here are key moments in the battle between De Lima and Mr. Duterte:

March 2009. De Lima, then head of the government’s Commission on Human Rights, flies to Davao and begins a public inquiry into the alleged death squads.

“I am bothered by statements attributed to him (Mr. Duterte) … which tend to condone this phenomenon of illegal or vigilante-style killings,” De Lima says at the inquiry.

Mr. Duterte responds: “If there is an iota of evidence that we are involved in the killings, I will submit to you, at the end of the day, my resignation as city mayor.”

June 2012. The commission, after De Lima has stepped down to become justice secretary, finds that “there was a systematic practice of extrajudicial killings” in Davao.

De Lima orders the National Bureau of Investigation, which is part of the justice department, to launch a probe into the alleged death squads.

May 2016. Mr. Duterte is elected President after pledging during the campaign to kill 100,000 criminals. De Lima separately wins a seat in the Senate.

Days after the election, the Department of Justice announces it has closed its investigation into the death squads because the last witness had fled a safe house run by the department’s witness protection program.

August 2016. Mr. Duterte accuses De Lima of running a drug trafficking ring with criminals in New Bilibid Prison to help fund her Senate election campaign.

De Lima, as head of the Senate justice and human rights committee, launches public hearings on alleged extrajudicial killings in Mr. Duterte’s drug war.

A self-declared Davao Death Squad assassin testifies that he and others killed about 1,000 people from 1998 to 2013 on Duterte’s orders.

Duterte allies in the Senate depose De Lima as committee head days later.

September 2016. The Senate drug war inquiry, now chaired by a Duterte ally, Richard Gordon, concludes the President and the state are not responsible for extrajudicial killings.

Feb. 17, 2017. The justice department files drug trafficking charges against De Lima. Four days later she brands Mr. Duterte a “serial killer” and calls for people to show courage and oppose him.

Feb. 24, 2017. De Lima is arrested.