The government of President Rodrigo Duterte disbanded an entire city’s police force over the alleged execution of a teenager and threatened to declare martial law nationwide in response to increasing political pressure over the Philippine leader’s deadly war on drugs, reports the Wall Street Journal. The police department in Caloocan—part of metropolitan Manila—with more than 1,000 staff, will be retrained and deployed in other districts as a direct result of the 17-year-old’s death, Manila’s police chief, Oscar Albayalde, told local media on Friday. Thousands of suspected drug users have been killed since Duterte took office in June 2016. Police say 3,800 people had been killed by officers during operations as of the end of August, though other estimates place the number as high as 13,000 when vigilante killings are included.
Duterte last week called suspected police executions of suspects “sabotage” by those trying to discredit his drug war. Kian Loyd delos Santos was shot in the head last month by Caloocan police, a killing that stood out for its brutality and for video evidence suggesting police may have lied about his death. While the drug war remains generally popular among Filipinos, the killing was a turning point for many, activists say, and has helped to galvanize opposition. “It brought the issue of extrajudicial killings much closer,” said Teresita Quintos-Deles, a former government peace adviser, and “provided a platform for those who were already disturbed.”