This undated image shows Filipino rapper Shanti Dope.
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PDEA chief hopes Shanti Dope makes music 'aligned' with 'drug war'
Rosette Adel ( - May 27, 2019 - 3:42pm

PDEA chief also invites rapper to the agency's office

MANILA, Philippines— Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino on Monday challenged rapper Shanti Dope, whom he said promotes marijuana use, to compose a song aligned with the government's war on drugs.

"Ang challenge kay Shanti Dope, sana makagawa siya ng music na aligned sa war on drugs (The challenge for Shanti Dope is for him to make music aligned with the war on drugs)," Aquino said in an interview with CNN’s "The Source."

"Mas makakabuti sana kung gumawa siya ng kanta na para sa mga kabataan na hindi ‘yung nagpo-promote ng something bad (It would be better if he can make a sound for the youth that does not promote something bad)," he added.

Aquino made the dare days after he sought to ban the rapper's song “Amatz.” The drug enforcement chief, who said he listened to the song twice, alleged that the rap song’s lyrics promote the use of marijuana.

READ: PDEA seeks to ban Shanti Dope song for allegedly promoting marijuana

On Thursday, Aquino released a statement saying that the singer “was referring to the effect of marijuana, being in its natural/organic state and not altered by any chemical compound.”

The PDEA chief said that the song caught his attention one weekend when he was watching TV. He said the word “Amatz” was repeatedly mentioned in the song and so he searched for the lyrics.

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'Amatz' is truly promoting marijuana use

He added that the lyrics had the following phrases prompting him to conclude that it was promoting the use of marijuana recreationally:

“Ang lakas ng amatz ko sabi nila, sabi nila….Sobrang natural, walang halong kemikal.”

 (I was hit so bad, they said, they said…It’s really natural without a mix of chemical)

Aquino said that the word “amatz” from “tama” or “hit” was mentioned 32 times. He said the song is catchy it would stick to the minds of the youth.

“It pertains either in the hit of alcohol or illegal drugs. In this case, ‘yung kanta niya malabo naman sigurong maging alcohol yan ano. Sabi niya meron pa siyang minention na damong mabango galing Benguet, o e ano pa ba yung damong mabango na galing Benguet, wala naman nang iba e,” he said.

(It pertains either in the hit of alcohol or illegal drugs. In this case, the song does not clearly pertain to alcohol. He also mentioned fragrant grass from Benguet, what other kind of grass smells good and is from Benguet? There’s nothing else.)

Some towns in the Cordillera region, where Benguet is, are known for marijuana plantation because it had a right climate to cultivate weed.

The management of Shanti Dope earlier called on Aquino to listen to the full song which was taken out of context.

Aquino said that although the song does not directly promote cannabis, he said the word “Amatz” itself connotes negative context related to illegal drugs.

“If the music is sad, you will become sad. If the music is happy, you will feel happy. If the music is a love song, you will feel in love…How will you feel ‘pag narinig mo 32 times na ang lakas ng amatz mo? (How will you feel if you listened for the strong hit for 32 times?) he said.

‘Freedom of expression not absolute’

Asked if he is singling out Shanti Dope and his music, Aquino said the move to ban the song is just part of their “harm reduction efforts.”

“Freedom of expression is limited is but not absolute… We are dealing with illegal drugs holistically. This is part of our harm reduction, if we think that this affects the public then we will criticize it,” he added in mixed English and Filipino.

Meanwhile, Aquino said Shanti Dope may visit the PDEA office within the week. He said this is a "good move" for the rapper so that they can discuss the resolution for the banning of his controversial song.

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