The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) may have won their battle—against music, that is.
Less than a month ago, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino wrote a letter to several large media entities in the Philippines lobbying to ban “Amatz,” a rap song that allegedly glorifies drug use. The letter declares: “This kind of music should not be allowed and we shouldn’t patronize these kinds of artists.”
PDEA was concerned with the chorus of the song, which has the lines “ Lakas ng amats ko, sobrang natural, walang halong kemikal,” which roughly translates to “I’m so high, it’s so natural, and with no chemicals.” Aquino also mentioned another line in the song that, according to him, directly references marijuana.
While Shanti Dope’s management has denied PDEA’s interpretation and attempted to clarify the song’s meaning –while calling out PDEA for setting a dangerous precedent for artists in the process– PDEA might have finally gotten its way with the help of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). The song is now banned in TV and radio stations under the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), or Association of Philippine Broadcasters, an organization that currently has 121 members. The organization encompasses a large number of the country’s radio and television stations.
Aquino thanked the NTC earlier today for issuing a directive in complying with the PDEA’s request, stating the decision is in line with the current administration’s commitment to battle illegal drugs. While other recipients of the letter have not announced whether or not they will honor the request, the KBP’s decision is a significant step.
This, against the backdrop of a controversial drug war spearheaded by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
While the fight may be lost in traditional media, “Amatz” continues to live on in digital platforms like Spotify and YouTube. Shanti Dope and “Amatz” has benefited from the Streisand Effect, wherein any attempt to censor or debase something has the unintended consequence of publicizing it further.
“Amatz” is one of Shanti Dope’s most popular songs to date.