“Nora Aunor was never convicted of a crime, let alone a crime involving drugs here in Los Angeles. I should know – I was the attorney who represented her,” lawyer Claire Navarro Espina posted in her Facebook account.
Espina said the issue “needs to get corrected and then let it die down and the re-application process to begin.”
During the 67th anniversary rites of the Philippine Air Force in Pampanga on Monday, President Aquino explained his decision his decision to reject Aunor for the National Artist Award due to her alleged history of drug use.
“Na-convict po siya sa drugs… na-convict at naparusahan at ang tanong ngayon dito, kapag ginawa ba [siyang] National Artist may mensahe ba akong maliwanag na sinasabi sa sambayanan?” Aquino said in a GMA News report.
Aquino added that while she respects Aunor for her work, he does not want to send a message that drug use is acceptable if he picked Aunor as National Artist.
Aunor was among the final nominees for the award by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), but was dropped from the final list signed by Aquino.
The President’s selection of National Artists drew a firestorm of criticisms from various groups and netizens who said the actress deserves the award.
Previously, the Palace kept its mouth shut over the controversy, saying it is clueless on the selection process.
For the first, Aunor spoke about the controversy on Monday, saying she was initially “hurt” with the President’s exclusion of her name from the final shortlist. But she said the “outpouring of support that I saw and felt from my countrymen—my colleagues in the industry, fans and friends, priests and nuns, teachers and other academicians, media people, national artists, even ordinary people from here and abroad” made up for her loss at the National Artist award.
Last Saturday, photos of Aunor wearing a strongly messaged statement shirt with the words “Proud to be Filipino. Ashamed of my government” made rounds in social networking sites.
In a statement, the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) slammed President’s justification of his decision on Aunor.
“PNoy grossly fails to consider that Aunor has endured and in fact prevailed over many trials that she has encountered as an artist and as a citizen. If he really wants to send the right message against illegal drugs, then the Aquino administration should instead show concrete results by catching and hauling into jail the big fish who are coddling and conniving with the foreign drug syndicates,” the group said in a Facebook post.