By Corina Oliquino i FilAm Star Correspondent

MANILA — The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) released a statement on May 24 to urge the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to leave the music industry alone, labelling its move to ban Shanti Dope’s rap song ‘Amatz’ as ridiculous.

In its statement, CAP has called on PDEA to focus on its mandate to “arrest drug lords rather than spending time and resources to ban a song, which it said is “open to different interpretations.”

PDEA Director Gen. Aaron Aquino wrote to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit, and ABS-CBN, to urge them to stop the promotion and airing of the song for its lyrics that go: “Lakas ng amats ko. Sobrang natural. Walang halong kemikal… Dati kataka-taka pa kung. Sa anong dahilan ka nila binabalik-balikan. Para saan ka pa ba nila pinagsusunugan ng salapi sa kada silid-gamitan. Makinang na bato. Mapadamuhang mabango.”

“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 in the statement, noting he respects and appreciate local music but that his opposition to the promotion of drug use through music remains.

Photo: Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) Director General Aaron N. Aquino (Director General Aaron Aquino Official Facebook Page)

“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,” said the PDEA chief, who reportedly thought of banning the song after watching the rapper perform it on ABS-CBN’s ASAP variety show.

CAP insists the song is open to different interpretations and that the people are free to debate its merits.

“Within the span of the song, it raises a debate of synthetic drugs versus natural drugs, or should one even do drugs at all? The earlier part even hints at how music holds the potential to keep young people from addiction,” the group said.

“One thing is clear: it is not the PDEA’s job to be a music critic. Neither is it mandated to promote censorship and the suppression of artistic expression,” it added, noting the drug use and addiction discourse “is best debated in an atmosphere of freedom and honesty.”

“With this move tantamount to censorship, the PDEA actually runs the risk of degrading the quality and integrity of the national conversation on the subject,” the group said.

“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,” they added, noting the continued existence of illegal drugs will be part of cultural expressions like music as long as it remains in the society.

In a report by The Philippine Star, Shanti Dope’s record label, Universal Records, confirmed the song, released last March 22, was produced by Sean Patrick Ramos aka Shanti Dope’s longtime collaborator Klumcee.

“The song Amatz’s message is about having a natural high — being one with nature, and an awareness about our environment in society, which is bombarded by synthetics and chemicals. We made a conscious effort to make it sound like a banger so that a lot of people would enjoy and feel the vibe and message behind the song,” Klumcee explained in the statement.

According to reports, Shanti Dope’s other songs, Norem” and “T.H.,” have lyrics that criticize Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.