(Associated Press) | Updated December 22, 2016 – 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines – Critics of the bloody war on drugs being waged by the Duterte administration have found a friend in James Taylor.
The American singer-songwriter has canceled his February concert in Manila, saying reports of summary executions of suspected drug offenders in the Philippines without judicial proceedings are “deeply concerning and unacceptable.”
Taylor, famous for songs such as “You’ve Got a Friend” and “Sweet Baby James,” tweeted yesterday that he had been looking forward to performing in Manila and that it saddened him to cancel the concert. He apologized to his Filipino fans and said all tickets sold for the Feb. 25 performance at Manila’s Mall of Asia Arena, ranging from P2,120 to P14,260, would be fully refunded.
Taylor said his scheduled concerts in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand would not be affected.
Since taking office in June, President Duterte has overseen a crackdown on drugs that has left about 6,000 people dead, alarming Western governments and human rights watchdogs. Philippine government officials have defended police actions during the crackdown.
While acknowledging that drug addiction is a worldwide problem that seriously harms society, Taylor criticized the anti-drug campaign.
“For a sovereign nation to prosecute and punish, under the law, those responsible for illegal trade in drugs is, of course, understandable, even commendable,” Taylor tweeted. “But recent reports from the Philippines of summary executions of suspected offenders without trial or judicial process are deeply concerning and unacceptable to anyone who loves the rule of law.’’
Dozens of tweets from people reacting to Taylor’s message praised the musician and voiced respect for his stand. Others urged other artists to follow his lead, while a handful of Duterte supporters said Taylor should see the situation for himself instead of basing his opinion only on media reports.
Philippine National Police spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said Taylor missed an opportunity to experience the hospitality of Filipinos.
“It is a loss for him to experience the warmth and hospitality of music-loving Filipino audience and also earn his purse from the concert,” Carlos said in a statement.
But Carlos said they respect Taylor’s decision, adding the musician should not be faulted for making a choice based on “incorrect information” about the country’s peace and order situation. – Emmanuel Tupas | Philippine Star