A rap song promoting the Philippines’ drug war? That’s what Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron Aquino wants from Filipino rapper Shanti Dope.
Aquino has challenged the musician to create a song in line with the government’s war on illegal drugs, days after the PDEA called him out for his song Amatz, which the agency believes promotes marijuana use.
“I hope he can make music that is aligned with our war on drugs. It would be better if he makes a song for the youth that will promote something positive and not promote anything bad,” Aquino said on CNN Philippines‘ The Source in Filipino today.
Aquino said during The Source‘s interview that Shanti Dope plans to go to the PDEA office within the week to discuss a resolution to the PDEA’s plan to ban his song.
The PDEA chief said the song caught his attention one weekend because the word “amatz (hit)” was mentioned “32 times” in the song, pushing him to check its lyrics. When CNN anchor Pinky Webb asked if Aquino is still keen on banning Amatz, he quipped, “Yes, of course.”
On Thursday, the PDEA sent a letter to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (Organization of Filipino Singers), and broadcasting company ABS-CBN to urge them to ban the song for allegedly promoting marijuana use. The letter urged the three organizations to prevent from playing and promoting Amatz in media stations throughout the country.
Shanti Dope’s team denied promoting marijuana use and asked the PDEA to listen to the lyrics more carefully and “not just take a few lines out of context.”
The rapper’s team explained that the song’s chorus refers to the singer’s high from creating music. “[It is] the natural high of creativity and knowing he is the only one who knows to do what he does.”
“This is a brazen use of power, and an affront to our right to think, write, create, and talk freely about the state of the nation,” the rapper’s management added in the statement.
Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), a group of Filipino artists, have also called on the PDEA to crack down on drug lords and not songs. The CAP said they found it ridiculous that the PDEA “has the gall — and the time and resources” to write letters to various organizations.
Aquino also said on The Source that he does not think his call for a ban sets a dangerous precedent in restricting artistic creativity and expression. He said that the song was part of the PDEA’s “harm reduction” efforts in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war against illegal drugs.
“Freedom of expression is limited. It’s not absolute. You cannot just make a song that you want. I know people, especially Shanti’s fans, who are bashing PDEA because we’re interfering in music,” he said.
“But you’ll see that PDEA has accomplished a lot. We are dealing with illegal drugs holistically. It’s not just supply-reduction and demand reduction. We also have harm reduction.”
This article, PH drug enforcement agency chief challenges rapper Shanti Dope to create song ‘aligned’ with government’s drug war, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!