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PDEA seeks to ban Shanti Dope song ‘Amatz’ for allegedly promoting drug use

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Thursday said it seeks a halt in the airing and promotion of Pinoy rapper Shanti Dope's song called "Amatz" as it contains lyrics that allegedly promotes the use of marijuana.

According to a news release, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino, in a letter dated May 20, 2019, requested the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit, and the ABS-CBN Corporation to "prevent the airing of ‘Amatz’ and its promotion in the different media stations throughout the country."

According to the PDEA, the chorus of the song "is mostly about ‘Lakas ng amats ko, sobrang natural, walang halong kemikal’."

It also cited the lyrics that mention, “Ito hinangad ko; lipadin ay mataas pa sa kayang ipadama sayo ng gramo, di bale ng musika ikamatay,” which, according to Aquino, promotes the use of marijuana.

“It appears that the singer was referring to the high effect of marijuana, being in its natural/organic state and not altered by any chemical compound,” Aquino said.

“We respect and appreciate our artists in the music industry, however, we strongly oppose the promotion of musical pieces or songs that encourage the recreational use of drugs like marijuana and shabu. It is contrary to our fight against illegal drugs,” he added.

According to the release, the PDEA chief also said that "the airing of the song that features the use of illegal drugs as harmless may mislead the vulnerable youth in their perception that it is all right to use illegal drugs."

“This runs contrary to [President Rodrigo] Duterte’s administration crusade against illegal drugs,” Aquino said.

PDEA said it also recommends that songs with a similar form and content should be banned from being aired.

‘Amatz’ is music, not drugs

In a statement, the management of Shanti Dope denied the PDEA's accusation that the song promotes illegal drugs, saying it was "unfair" and "offensive" to the songwriter for the agency to judge the song based only on portions of its lyrics.

The management urged Aquino to listen to the whole song and not take a few lines out of context.

"While anyone is welcome to interpret a song or any cultural text, it is also clear that for an interpretation to be valid, it needs to have basis, and must be within the context of the cultural text as a whole," it said.

The management said the first part of the song actually talks about the ill effects and dangers of illegal drugs, and how the persona used music to make a clear stand against illegal drugs.

It said that "amatz" in the song refers to music through which the persona found his identity and not any form of drugs.

"This is what the next verse then focuses on, complete with the ideological anchor of Shanti’s upbringing in Buddhism, with references to concepts such as mahamantra and chakra, as a response in the end to those who think they know the persona, but in fact know little about him," it added.

The management also said PDEA's proposed ban sets a dangerous precedent for creative and artistic freedom in the Philippines. — MDM, GMA News