Under the often authoritarian leadership of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, the country has become infamous for waging a heavy-handed and often deadly war on drugs.
Now, the country’s drug enforcement agency is turning its sights on artists and culture producers. Recently, top ranking law enforcement officials have warned against a new rap song they claim promotes the use of cannabis, which is illegal in the Philippines.
And while officials have targeted one song in particular, they also seem to be using this as an opportunity to propose sweeping bans on any music they think speaks favorably of illegal drugs.
PDEA Goes After Rapper
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, also known simply as the PDEA, is speaking out against Filipino rapper Shanti Dope. In particular, the agency has problems with Shanti Dope’s song, “Amatz.”
According to PDEA officials, the song has lyrics they think promote the illegal use of marijuana. And according to Filipino news source ABS-CBN News, these officials are now working to prevent the song from airing in the Philippines.
“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” PDEA Director General Aaraon Aquino said.
“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.”
After making clear what they think about the song, PDEA officials are apparently trying to keep the song from playing in the country. And they are also recommending that any song that talks about illegal drugs should be banned.
Check out Ashanti Dope’s “Amatz” here:
Ashanti Dope Responds to PDEA
In response, Shanti Dope took to Facebook. There he published a lengthy response to the PDEA.
“The media alerted Shanti Dope Management with regards the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) media release calling on a ban on Shanti Dope’s song ‘Amatz,'” the rapper’s response said.
Later in the post, he urged Aquino and other officials to “listen to the whole song, and not just take a few lines out of context.”
The rapper went on to explain that the song is speaking more broadly about any positive feelings.
Additionally, Ashanti Dope called out the government for overstepping its bounds. Specifically, he called the attempted ban on his song a “dangerous precedent for creative and artistic freedom.”
He added: “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.”
You can read the rapper’s full response here.
This is far from the first time the Duterte regime has reacted harshly to anything drug related. In fact, Duterte’s war on drugs is widely known for being particularly violent.
In what has troubled many in the U.S., President Donald Trump has publicly celebrated his “great relationship” with Duterte. Similarly, Duterte has told the media that Trump is a “good friend.” And in meetings between the two leaders, Trump has failed to bring up the issue of human rights abuses.