LOS ANGELES - The lawyer who handled Nora Aunor's legal case in California was disappointed upon hearing that President Benigno Aquino III did not give the National Artist award to the actress because she was convicted of drug charges and was punished for it.
In a statement to ABS-CBN News, Atty. Claire Espina clarified that Aunor did not have a drug conviction in America, adding that there was no judgment in her case.
“Nora Aunor was never convicted. This is not accurate nor is it factual. There was a deferred judgment, which means there is no conviction because there is no judgment,” she said.
In 2005, Aunor was arrested at Los Angeles Airport when drug paraphernalia were discovered in a bag with her name.
According to Espina, the bag was not even packed by the actress herself.
Aunor was traveling with four companions when she was detained. After facing the charges in a Los Angeles court, Aunor completed a diversion program and the case was dismissed in 2007.
Espina said she hopes that after this clarification, there will be no more inaccuracies being reported about Aunor's case.
In a press briefing on Tuesday, the President said naming Aunor as one of the National Artists would send a message that drug abuse is acceptable.
"Ang naging problema ko lang doon, alam naman natin lahat na iginagalang ko ulit si Bb. Nora Aunor, na-convict po siya sa drugs. Na-convict at naparusahan at ang tanong ngayon dito, pag ginawa ba nating National Artist may mensahe ba akong maliwanag na sinasabi sa sambayanan?" he said.
Meanwhile, Aunor's colleagues in California are firmly in her corner on the National Artist issue.
“There's no reason for her not to become a National Artist because her body of work speaks for it. ‘Himala’ alone should make her a National Artist,” said stage actress Olga Natividad.
Stage actor Joseph Gelito added: “Na-disappoint ako, e. ‘Di ako masyadong pamilyar kung bakit o ano ang dahilan pero kung ano't-anuman, parang feeling ko dapat pinu-put aside natin ang mga personal na bagay, dapat tinitingnan natin siya as an artista.”
The Order of National Artist award, issued by presidential proclamation, recognizes a person's significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts and letters.
The honor includes a cash prize, monthly pension for life and a state funeral when the awardee dies.
Six awardees were announced last month, taking the total to just 66, including six in the film industry, since it was created in 1972. -- With Agence France-Presse