A group of artists slammed the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) over its request to ban the song ‘Amatz’ by Filipino rapper Shanti Dope, stressing that being a music critic is not part of their mandate.
In its statement posted on Facebook on Friday, May 24, the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), which was co-founded by filmmaker and National Artist Lino Brocka, said they find it “ridiculous” that PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino had asked the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-Aawit (OPM), and ABS-CBN Corporation to prevent the airing and promotion of the song as it allegedly promotes recreational marijuana use.
“Everyone is free to debate on the merits of the song, and its repetitive message of a ‘natural high’ can be interpreted in many ways. One thing, however, is clear: it is not PDEA’s job to be a music critic. Neither is it mandated to promote censorship and the suppression of artistic expression,” the group said.
The group noted that PDEA’s proposed ban can be tantamount to “censorship” and how it actually “runs the risk of degrading the quality and integrity of the national conversation on the subject.”
The artists told the PDEA to instead focus on addressing the country’s drug problem, instead of “wasting” resources to ban a rap song.
“We warn the PDEA: Leave the cultural commentary to the musicians, the fans, and the public at large. Instead, focus on your mandate to jail the big drug lords who still roam free,” it stressed.
“As long as the chief purveyors of illegal drugs remain, so will the culture of drug use and the social illness of addiction—and cultural expressions like music are mere reflections of this,” it added.
Shanti Dope’s management had denied that ‘Amatz,’ promotes the use of marijuana and described PDEA’s move to ban the song as a “brazen use of power, and an affront to our right to think, write, create, and talk freely about the state of the nation.”
It also urged Aquino to listen to the whole song and not just take “a few lines out of context.”