Gary Valenciano: PDEA's call to ban 'Amatz' may set limits on free expression
MANILA, Philippines — Gary Valenciano flagged the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency's (PDEA) call to ban the song "Amatz" by rapper Shanti Dope, saying it could create a "domino principle" and limit other forms of artistic expression as well.
In a press conference for the Evolt Concert and Dance championship on Saturday, May 25, Valenciano said "whatever is in the Constitution" should be followed.
"Once you start limiting what people can say in a song, what’s to stop anybody from limiting to express themselves in other ways – in movies, in what you write, in what we tweet, in what we put on Instagram, what we put in Facebook. It might create a domino principle," Valenciano said.
Article III, Section 4 of the Constitution states: "No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances."
PDEA chief Aaron Aquino earlier called for the song to be banned, because it allegedly promoted the use of illegal drugs. Shanti Dope's management refuted that allegation, saying the song was about music and not drugs.
Aquino has written to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) and the OPM (Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit) about his concerns. He also wrote ABS-CBN, where he first saw the song being performed, so as to request they stop airing it.
Valenciano, as the internal affairs vice president of OPM, responded.
"OPM believes in the freedom of expression but we do not condone the use of illegal substance. Being artists, we know that there are many artists even abroad that use substances to carry themselves through but we don’t stand for that. We will never condone that," Valenciano said.
"Maybe I can speak for Shanti as well because he’s the biggest thing now. When you step up on a stage, and you get support from people you don’t know, and they know you, that’s a natural high that goes beyond any substance," Valenciano added, reflecting on the meaning of the song. "Now he did mention certain things in the song that when I read the lyrics, I’m like yeah but he’s not encouraging anyone to do it. What he’s saying is ganito, this is how you are, this how some people will revert to using these things… that’s what I think," he added.
The Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) in a Facebook has since PDEA's move, saying it was not their job to be a "music critic." Instead, the group said PDEA should focus on high level drug lords.
PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino did not back down on his call to ban the song. He has since issued a challenge to Shanti Dope to come up with a song that is "in line" with the government's campaign against illegal drugs. – Alexa Villano/Rappler.com