Nora Aunor ordered to undergo detox in US clinic

- Jose Katigbak () - December 24, 2005 - 12:00am
WASHINGTON — Nora Aunor, one of the Philippines’ most popular film and music stars, was set to enroll in a year-long drug detoxification program that, if successful, would let her avoid jail.

"Nora will be going through a program requiring much introspection and discipline," her lawyers from the law firm Edelberg & Espina said in a statement released here yesterday.

Aunor’s lawyers said she gave up the fight after nearly nine months of vigorously contesting charges of felony drug possession filed against her by United States authorities who recommended that she enrol in the drug treatment program.

"This is a challenging process for anyone and more particularly for Nora, who is far away from her country and her family, especially during this Christmas season," they added.

Aunor’s lawyers, who included Claire Espina, said the court-supervised drug treatment program involves counseling, education and other therapeutic interventions. This is available to non-violent first-time drug offenders and keeps them out of jail.

"While attending this program, Nora remains free to go about her business, unencumbered in her movements," they said.

Aunor’s lawyers urged the media and the public to "accord (her) the time, space and privacy to enable her to complete this self-imposed endeavor, free from intrusion and undue interference."

Aunor, 53, was arrested March 30 at Los Angeles International Airport after security screeners allegedly found 7.7 grams of methamphetamine and a glass pipe in her handbag. She was on her way back to her San Francisco Bay area home after a business trip to Los Angeles.

She pleaded not guilty to the charge and posted $10,000 bail.

Aunor was bound over for arraignment and trial when a judge at a preliminary hearing ruled there was probable cause to believe she was in possession of methamphetamine when police arrested her.

Espina said since Aunor was cleared by Customs officers to leave Oakland for Los Angeles, it meant the actress did not have any drugs with her.

Espina wondered how the drugs appeared in Aunor’s bag when she never left the airport during the two hours she was there to consult with business associates.

Lawyers not directly involved with the case said once Aunor completes the program, the original charges will be dismissed and there will be no record of her having been charged with a drug offense in the US.

Aunor, whose real name is Nora Cabaltera Villamayor, will receive counseling and treatment at a live-in or outpatient center and will undergo frequent drug tests, said Jane Robison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

Her criminal case will be dismissed if she completes the program by remaining drug-free for at least six months, Robison said.

Aunor is in the US on an "01" visa, which enables people with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics to stay and work for a set period of time.

It was not immediately known if her voluntary enrollment in the drug program would have consequences on her immigration status. She is believed to have a pending application for a "green card" that gives its holder permanent residency status in the US.

Aunor’s decision to enroll in the program came as the prosecution pushed for a trial no later than early January despite her lawyers’ contentions that the actress had not been read her "Miranda rights" during police questioning nor was a Filipino interpreter made available to her.

"Nora believes the education and experience she will receive from this program will enable her to be in a position of assistance to others who may need it," her lawyers said.

They also said Aunor wanted her fans to know that their unceasing support has been a constant source of comfort and inspiration to her.

"In compliance with the program and on the advice of her counsel, Nora Aunor will not be making any statement regarding this matter," her lawyers said.

Aunor’s arrest on drug charges in Los Angeles is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding her more than 30 years in show business.

Known as "The Superstar" to her fans, she has appeared in more than 170 films and recorded more than two dozen albums, including scores of hit singles. On screen, she has starred with leading men of her time, including ousted President Joseph Estrada, a former actor. With AP, AFP

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