In response to attacks from various corners about his decision to drop superstar Nora Aunor from the country’s latest batch of National Artists, President Benigno Aquino III explained Tuesday that he took into consideration the actress’ supposed history of drug use.
“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?” Aquino explained.
Aquino’s claim was swiftly debunked by lawyer Claire Navarro Espina, the one who represented Aunor in her case which lasted from 2005 to 2007. ”
Nora Aunor was never convicted of a crime, let alone a crime involving drugs here in Los Angeles,” she said through Facebook. “Apparently, there is misinformation over there in the Philippines on this issue,” she added.
“I entered Nora in a diversion program. She was not jailed. She did not undergo drug rehabilitation. She did not go into drug detoxification,” the lawyer further told Bernie Franco of Philippine Entertainment Portal.
The Filipino Scribe did a quick research of past articles re Aunor’s case to construct a timeline about what went before:
March 2005 – Aunor was arrested in the Los Angeles International Airport after 7.7 grams of methamphetamine (“shabu”) was found on her baggage.
“She was on her way back to her San Francisco Bay area home after a business trip to Los Angeles,” the Philippine Star reported at that time.
December 2005 – Aunor’s lawyers entered her in a “court-supervised drug treatment program involves counseling, education and, other therapeutic interventions. This course is designed specifically for non-violent first-time drug offenders, providing them a means to avoid imprisonment.
March 2006 – Aunor pleaded guilty to charges of drug possession. However, as Agence France Presse reported, this is more of a legal maneuver than an admission of any wrongdoing.
The arrangement allowed Aunor to continue with her detox program for another 18 months. After that, her legal team can ask the drug possession case to be dismissed altogether.
October 2007 – A Los Angeles Court dismissed Aunor’s case. More importantly, this decision paved the way for Aunor’s criminal record to be cleared.
Obviously, President Aquino got his facts about Aunor’s drug case wrong. Did anyone from his communications team research on this first so that the commander-in-chief won’t end up embarrassing himself in public?
And, to raise another point: Aquino should have kept in mind that the national artist awards is about recognizing outstanding artists (duh), not SAINTS.
Engaging in certain non-violent vices like consuming alcohol and even smoking marijuana should not affect the assessment of an artists’ contributions to the nation.