James Taylor cancels Manila show over drug war killings
Grammy award-winning singer James Taylor has cancelled a concert in the Philippines next February in protest at alleged extrajudicial killings during President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs.
“I don’t think of my music as being particularly political but sometimes one is called upon to make a political stand,” he said on his official website, www.jamestaylor.com.
The US star, who beat back drug addiction in his youth before finding global fame with his singing and songwriting, called narcotics dependence a “scourge” and a worldwide problem which sovereign nations should address by lawful means.
“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.”
Taylor offered his “heartfelt apologies” to Filipino fans, saying he had been eagerly looking forward to playing for them and it saddened him to cancel the concert.
Duterte, a fiery populist provincial politician, was elected by a landslide earlier this year largely on a vow to kill 100,000 criminals.
Police or suspected vigilantes have killed more than 5,300 people since July, but the government rejects the allegations of extrajudicial executions and insists those killed by police had resisted arrest and fought officers.
Philippine National Police spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo Carlos said it respected Taylor’s decision, but insisted it was based on incorrect information.
“Coming to the Philippines (would have been) a firsthand opportunity to prove for himself that there is no alarming EJKs (extrajudicial killings) happening in the country,” Carlos said in a statement.
Taylor, 68, rose to fame in the 1970s for writing and performing sensitive songs such as “Fire and Rain” and “You’ve Got a Friend” and has won five Grammy Awards over his long career.
In recent press interviews he has openly discussed his recovery from heroin addiction in his teens, just before he became globally famous.
Inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 2000 and awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2011, he is close to the party of President Barack Obama, who has slammed Duterte over the killings.
Duterte has rejected the criticism, calling Obama a “son of a whore”.
Supporters and critics of Duterte as well as, Taylor fans flooded the announcement on the singer’s Facebook site on Wednesday with comments.
A Facebook user with the name Marel Cabuandra commented: “drug addict has no place nowhere in the phil. r u one of them?”
Katrina Mae Gaite replied: “Thanks JT. I’m sorry for our president’s fanatics attacking you right now.”
Ovation Productions was informed about the cancellation only late Tuesday, the local promoter’s president and chief executive Renen de Guia told AFP.
De Guia said Taylor was the first foreign performer he was aware of to have cancelled a Philippine concert over the killings.
Taylor was scheduled to have played in Manila on February 25 next year as part of a foreign tour, and de Guia said ticket sales had been brisk.
Both said all tickets sold would be refunded.