Singer James Taylor cancels Manila concert to protest Duterte's bloody drug war

American singer, songwriter and activist James Taylor has cancelled the Manila leg of his tour next year "to make a political stand" over a spate of extrajudicial killings that have marked President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial anti-crime drive.
American singer, songwriter and activist James Taylor has cancelled the Manila leg of his tour next year "to make a political stand" over a spate of extrajudicial killings that have marked President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial anti-crime drive.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA - American singer, songwriter and activist James Taylor has cancelled the Manila leg of his tour next year "to make a political stand" over a spate of extrajudicial killings that have marked President Rodrigo Duterte's controversial anti-crime drive.

"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 law," Mr Taylor, 68, said in a statement on his social media accounts.

Latest available data showed that over 2,100 drug suspects have been in police operations since Mr Duterte, 72, who won on a promise to eradicate crime and corruption, took office on June 30.

Another 4,000 were believed to have been killed by vigilantes or in purges within criminal gangs.

Some 41,000 suspected drug users and dealers, meanwhile, have been arrested.

Mr Taylor said he had been looking forward to holding a concert in the Philippines, "but sometimes one is called upon to make a stand".

He was scheduled to perform in Manila on Feb 25, as part of his "Before This World" tour.

He said while "scourge of addiction is a worldwide problem and does serious harm, not only to the addict but to our society", and that efforts by governments to combat it is "understandable, even commendable", he disapproves of Mr Duterte's bloody approach.

Mr Taylor, best known for hits that include You've Got A Friend, Fire And Rain, Your Smiling Face, and Carolina On My Mind, had himself treated for heroin addiction early in his career.

He continued to struggle with narcotics till his second marriage to actress Kathryn Walker in 1984. His first marriage was to fellow singer Carly Simon.

Mr Taylor, a professed liberal and a lifelong Democrat, has offered his support to various political causes, including drug addiction.

In a 2015 interview with The Telegraph, he said: "A big part of my story is recovery from addiction".

"One thing that addiction does is, it freezes you… One of the things you learn as you get older is that you're just the same," he said.

Mr Taylor's concert in Singapore will push through, his promoters said.

rdancel@sph.com.sg