CLARK AIR BASE, Pampanga: President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday admitted that the drug case of award-winning actress Nora Aunor was the reason why he did not accept her nomination for National Artist.
Aquino believes that individuals who are proclaimed as National Artists are those who have contributed greatly to the Filipino race and those who can be considered as role models.
“We all know I respect Nora Aunor. My only problem was her drug conviction,” he said, referring to Aunor’s arrest in 2005, when she was stopped at the Los Angeles International Airport for alleged possession of drug paraphernalia and illegal drugs eventually identified as methamphetamine.
“She was convicted and punished, and the question here is if we make her a National Artist, is there a message we are sending to the people?” the President
Aunor was eventually cleared in 2007, after undergoing a rehabilitation program and after her drug test came out negative.
The President acknowledged this, but said an award for Aunor may send the wrong message that drug use is acceptable.
“The message I want to send is it is always bad and illegal drugs do nobody any good,” Aquino said.
“I cannot emphasize that message enough and at the same time, raise Miss Nora Aunor as the National Artist,” he added.
The President said he respects the work and achievements of Philippine cinema’s “Superstar” even mentioning that his late father, former senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was a fan of the actress.
But Aquino explained that if he accepted Aunor’s nomination, some people will also question his decision.
“I respect her. I respect her body of work, but my problem is our administration’s message is zero tolerance for drugs all the time,” he said.
“If I proclaimed her National Artist, I am sure there will be those who will ask how can she be considered a role model. That is really the nature of my job,” Aquino added.
The National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Cultural Center of the Philippines nominated Aunor as National Artist for Film. But Malacañang only named six National Artists—Alice Reyes for dance, Francisco Coching (posthumous) for visual arts, Cirilo Bautista for literature, Francisco Feliciano and Ramon Santos for music and Jose Maria Zaragoza for architecture, design and allied arts.