MANILA – The lawyer who handled Nora Aunor’s drug-related case in the United States made it clear that the award-winning actress was not convicted of any crime, following news that she has been removed from the newest list of National Artists.
President Benigno Aquino III earlier said that Aunor was excluded from the list because she was convicted for using illegal drugs.
In a statement sent to ABS-CBN News on Thursday, Atty. Claire Espina maintained that Aunor has "an unblemished record under US law" and that their firm "wholeheartedly endorses the collective move to have her be conferred the status of National Artist of the Philippines."
Espina explained in detail what Aunor went through in relation to her drug-related case in the US.
"Over nine years ago, Ms. Aunor was charged with alleged possession of a controlled substance found in a carry-on luggage in her name at the Los Angeles International Airport. At that time, Ms. Aunor was traveling with an entourage who packed, handled and carried her luggage. When the luggage was randomly selected for inspection and contraband was allegedly found inside a man’s athletic shoe, her entourage fled, leaving her, literally, holding the bag. She was booked and then promptly released on a bond secured by this firm," she said.
"Ms. Aunor enrolled in two civil diversion programs with certain conditions tailored to accommodate her specific situation. Unlike other participants, she was never in any drug detoxification or residential treatment program. She was not subjected to medical treatment. She was allowed to travel. Ms. Aunor was enrolled in a non-residential program under the auspices of a non-profit foundation catering to those in the arts, media and entertainment. She underwent intensive counseling and education sessions that provided her with problem solving and coping skills. As a result of these counseling sessions, she finally experienced the therapeutic effects of talk therapy," she added.
Espina stressed that Aunor underwent and passed more than 40 drug tests in the US, and that she “remained free to live her life and pursue her profession.”
"She was not required to perform community service. She never spent time in jail, nor was she incarcerated for any offense," she said.
Espina lamented how Aunor was defined with "misplaced infamy" by some people in the Philippines despite the actress' numerous awards and successes abroad.
"It is with full irony that this foreign jurisdiction would deem hers to be the success story, where some in the Philippines would rather define her with replaced infamy," she said.
"Inasmuch as California law has spoken on the issue relating to matters within its proper jurisdiction with respect to Ms. Aunor, I would hope that the legal implications emanating here will be accorded full faith and credit in the Philippines, consistent with the spirit of the treaties and bilateral relations which exist between our countries."
Late last month, Aunor admitted that she felt hurt after finding out that she was dropped from the latest batch of National Artists.
Despite this, the veteran actress said she would rather not dwell on the issue and instead focus on her craft.