Members of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP), a group founded by game-changing filmmaker and National Artist Lino Brocka, pride themselves in defending freedom of expression.
So when the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) proposed a ban on Shanti Dope's "Amatz," which authorities perceived was a song that promotes marijuana use, the CAP had a stern response.
"Hands off our music!" the group warned in a statement released on Facebook Friday. "Police the druglords, not our musicians! Defend artistic freedom!"
They criticized the PDEA for acting as music critics, saying: "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 artists described the move as a form of censorship, and explained how this actually risks "degrading the quality and integrity of the national conversation" on drug use and addiction.
"Leave the cultural commentary to the musicians, the fans, and the public at large," the CAP wrote. "Instead, focus on your mandate to jail the big druglords who still roam free."
"No less than President Rodrigo Duterte and the Philippine National Police admitted in recent statements that the country’s drug problem has 'worsened.' Why is the agency wasting the taxpayer’s money picking on a rap song, instead of reeling in the big fish?
"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.
"Perhaps the PDEA can learn something from Shanti Dope's song which they so loathe: 'Di bale nang musika ikamatay, kesa pera't atraso, bala ng amo.' "
The full statement can be read below:
It was on Thursday when the PDEA described the lyrics of "Amatz" as promoting the use of marijuana, which runs contrary to the government's anti-illegal drugs campaign.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino highlighted the lyrics: "Lakas ng amats ko, sobrang natural, walang halong kemikal."
Shanti Dope's camp denied that "Amatz" promotes marijuana, explaining that the song actually discourages illegal-drugs use.
His side also said that the proposed ban sets a "dangerous precedent for creative and artistic freedom in the country."