Drug agency trying to ban rap song

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THE Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is seeking to ban rapper Shanti Dope’s (real name: Sean Patrick Ramos) song “Amatz” from the airwaves, saying that its lyrics which allegedly promote marijuana use run contrary to the government’s ongoing drug war.

The singer denies this and said the lyrics the PDEA objects to were taken out of context.

In a letter dated May 20, the government agency asked the Movie and Television Review and Classification Boards (MTRCB), the Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM), and ABS-CBN Corp to “prevent the airing of ‘Amats’ and its promotion in the different media stations in the country.”

The same statement said that the song’s lyrics — “Ito hinangad ko; lipadin ay mataas pa sa kayang ipadama sa’yo ng gramo, ’di bale ng musika ikamatay” (Here! dreamt of flying higher than what those substances can bring me, I’ll die as a musician) — promote the use of marijuana while the chorus talks about being high — “Lakas ng amats ko, sobrang natural, walang halong kemikal” (I’m so freakin high, too natural, with no extra chemical).

“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,” Aaron N. Aquno, PDEA director, said in the statement.

“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.

The statement likewise recommended that songs of a similar nature be censored and banned from being played on air.

In response to the PDEA’s action, Mr. Ramos went to Facebook and released a statement on May 23 that said that while “anyone is welcome to interpret a song or any cultural text, it is also clear that for an interpretation to be valid, it must have basis, and must be within the context of the cultural text as a whole.”

“We enjoin Director Aquino to listen to the whole song, and not just take a few lines out of context. The song begins with the persona talking about the ill effects, the violence, and dangers of drugs: ‘Kamatayan o parak / Na umaga o gabi, may kahabulan / Dami ng nasa ataol pa / Hangang katapusan laki ng kita sa kahuyan.’ ( Death or cops/ day or night, we’re on the run/ many are already in their coffins/ until the end earned a lot from farming)” Mr. Ramos said.

(English translation of the lyrics from

Mr. Ramos is an 18-year-old rapper who has become popular for songs like “Nadarang” (2017), “Shanti Dope” (2017) and “Apoy” (2018).

He said that the song, which was released in March, is about a person taking a stand against illegal drugs who turns to music to get his high: “the natural high of creativity and knowing he is the only one who knows to do what he does.”

“To take apart a song and judge it based on certain lyrics that offend us is unfair to the songwriter; to presume that our reading of a song is the only valid one is offensive to an audience that might be more mature than we think,” he added.

In the end, he said that “this ban sets a dangerous precedent for creative and artistic freedom in the country, where a drug enforcement agency can unilaterally decide on what a song is about and call for its complete ban because it is presumed to go against government’s war on illegal drugs.”

“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,” Mr. Ramos said. — ZBC