PDEA affirms stand against ‘Amatz’

Published May 24, 2019, 8:13 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Chito Chavez

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) affirmed its stand of recommending the banning in the airing of the song entitled “Amatz” by Shantie Dope for its double meaning that supposedly encourages illegal drug use even for recreational purposes.

PDEA Dir Aaron Aquino speaks during a press conference at the PDEA headquarters in Quezon City, April 25 2018. (Mark BAlmores / MANILA BULLETIN)
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino (MARK BALMORES / MANILA BULLETIN)

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

PDEA was on the receiving end of many negative reactions after it made such request.

“Reality speaks that the chorus of any song, in general, will most likely stick to one’s mind. Majority of those who will hear this over and over will not remember the other parts of the song, especially since it is rap that is delivered so fast that one cannot catch up and understand, and just remember the chorus part instead,’’ Aquino said.

“The double meaning of the song “Amatz”, the chorus lines in particular, “LAKAS NG AMATS KO, SOBRANG NATURAL WALANG HALONG KEMIKAL” was repeated five times, and the line “LAKAS NG AMATS KO” was repeated 30 times. The rest of the lyrics was not understood when we came to hear the song, but it is just the chorus that is clearly heard”, he added.

“Shanti Dope’s thousands of fans who listen and appreciate his kind of music are consisting mostly of the youth, “with their young mind, it appears that the lyrics of the song was referring to the high effect of marijuana, is in its natural/organic state and not altered by any chemical compound, as also to the line of the song, “ITO HINANGAD KO; LIPADIN AY MATAAS PA SA KAYANG IPADAMA SAYO NG GRAMO”, Aquino pointed out.

Shanti Dope’s management scored PDEA for its stand saying “this ban sets a dangerous precedent for creative and artistic freedom in the country, when 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’’.

It added PDEA’s move 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”.

While it is true as cited in Article III, Section 4 in the 1987 Philippine Constitution that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of expression, Aquino said this right to freedom of expression, may it be in oral utterances or in written, on paper, radio, television or even in social media is not absolute, and has limitations such as, severe calumny (libel or slander); anything lewd or obscene; anything that provokes violence or disorder; seditious messages; and if it is clear and present danger, as in the utterances or writing seems serious, grave, immediate and realistic.

Under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Philippines is a state party, the freedom of expression carries restrictions, such as respect for the rights or reputations of others, national security, public order, public health, and public morals.

The lyrics of the song “Amatz”, and how the words are uttered in the chorus by the singer has clearly defied the limitation of the law.

Aquino insisted it poses danger to “our youth who are vulnerable to misleading perceptions as to what they see and hear’’.

“It is a serious concern on the part of PDEA being the lead agency of the government in the fight against illegal drugs, and in ensuring the future of the youth,’’ Aquino stressed.

As President Duterte said, “stop destroying our country, and the youth, as the next generation of Filipinos because we need them to run the country to be the mothers and fathers of our children so that the Philippines can continue until kingdom come in a drug-free country”.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to songs with double meaning such as this because it is part of our mandate to implement drug control strategies and harm reduction,” Aquino concluded.

READ MORE: PDEA seeks ban of Shanti Dope’s song ‘Amatz’