Lawyer: Nora Aunor's drug case dismissal a success story
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - July 4, 2014 - 12:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — Nora Aunor's lawyer has released an official statement on her drug case in the United States that cost her the National Artist distinction.

In her statement, Atty. Claire Navarro Espina explained why Aunor (Nora Villamayor in real life) was never convicted of drug possession, contrary to President Benigno Aquino III's claim that the actress was punished for her supposed crime.

Espina narrated that over nine years ago, Aunor was charged with alleged drug possession and was persuaded to consider several civil diversion options available under the California Penal Code.

She said civil diversion offers a way for eligible individuals to resolve a case, outside the court setting, if certain conditions are met.

"If the conditions are satisfied, no conviction occurs, and the case is simply dismissed. Under these programs, when a case is dismissed, the arrest shall be deemed to have never occurred. In fact, the participant may indicate, in response to any question, that he or she was not arrested," Espina explained.

Aunor enrolled in two civil diversion programs with certain conditions fit for her specific situation. Espina said the actress was never in any drug detoxification or residential treatment program nor was she subjected to medical treatment.

"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 benefits of talk therapy," Espina said, adding that Aunor was also allowed to travel.

The lawyer said Aunor underwent and passed more than 40 random drug tests that were administered by numerous court-approved laboratory facilities in various locations in the United States.

"At no time were drugs ever detected in her system. She was not required to perform community service. She never spent time in jail, nor was she incarcerated for any offense," Espina said.

After meeting all of the civil diversion conditions, Aunor's case was dismissed on October 1, 2007 and her arrest was deemed never to have occurred.

"Ms. Aunor has no record of conviction in any U.S. jurisdiction precisely because she was never sentenced, and hence, never convicted," Espina said.

She also disclosed that the she was recently not allowed to have access to her client's records because they have been sealed after the dismissal of the case.

Espina said Aunor is a "testament to the redemptive goals" of California civil diversion programs.

"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 misplaced infamy," Espina said.

Espina's statement would appear as a response to President Aquino's remarks that proclaiming Aunor as a National Artist would send the message that the use of illegal drugs is acceptable in the Philippines.

Aquino himself claimed earlier this week that Aunor was convicted and punished in connection with her drug case.

Read: PNoy: Drug case disqualified Nora as Nat'l Artist

But Espina said the Philippines "cannot create the fiction" that Aunor was arrested or convicted because it never happened in the US.

"After all, Ms. Aunor is a woman who has an unblemished record under US law," Espina said.

The lawyer said their firm endorses the collective move to have Aunor be conferred the status of National Artist of the Philippines.

She also said that she is prepared to execute an affidavit to support the accuracy of the facts detailed in her official statement on Aunor's drug case. -Louis Bacani

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