Filipina actress Nora Aunor. Pic: AP.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Benigno Aquino III is defending his decision not to appoint actress Nora Aunor as a national artist because it would send the message that illegal drugs are acceptable.

But her lawyer said the president’s staff was mistaken in saying Aunor had been convicted of a drug crime. Aquino spoke Tuesday about his decision after a week of silence over the omission.

Aunor rose from rags to stardom, winning multiple acting honors in the Philippines and overseas in her long career. Several national artists and members of the committee that nominated Aunor have expressed anger that Aquino dropped her from the list.

Aunor’s lawyer, Claire Navarro Espina, said the actress was arrested in 2005 at the Los Angeles airport for a drug-related offense but the case was dismissed.

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