When the initial security reports from Marawi City reached Moscow through Special Assistant to the President, Secretary Christopher Lawrence Go, he immediately relayed its contents to the President. The President, who was currently in a meeting with his Russian counterpart, excused himself and summoned to a closed door meeting, the Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, his Special Assistant Secretary Christopher Go, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and the National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.
On the night of the 23rd of May 2017, via a live press conference from Moscow, Russia, we saw then-Press Secretary Ernesto Abella announce the declaration of Proclamation No. 216 which placed the entire island of Mindanao under Martial Law, suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus there.
With Martial Law in effect, we knew that it would conjure up the old images of abuses committed by the military during the Martial Law of the 1970s. We had expected opposition to the declaration of Martial Law and it was a big challenge on our part to show that the Martial Law of the 1970s was different from the Martial Law of 2017. With this in mind, we had to show the public that the declaration of Martial Law was not a ticket for abuse on the part of our soldiers. We made sure that we did not supplant the local chief executives (LCEs). Rather, we worked side by side with them in addressing the crisis, most especially when it involved the plight of the civilians, that would be displaced by the fighting. We made it clear to our security forces that the doctrines of human rights must be upheld at all times and that no abuses would be tolerated whatsoever. If we did not put up the additional checkpoints and conduct thorough searches at our checkpoints throughout Marawi City, the people of the neighboring towns and provinces would not have felt that Martial Law in the island of Mindanao was in force.
Critics raised questions on the validity of Martial Law, but the Supreme Court denied these petitions. The House of Representatives and the Senate, both concurred on the extension of Martial Law until the 31st of December 2017. This was later on extended again until the end of 2018.
During the Marawi crisis, the strategizing and planning by JTF Marawi necessitated the implementing and innovation of a two-pronged approach, which was necessary for expanding our influence, establishing the legitimacy of our operations, and creating a moral victory. Thus, the hard power and the soft power approaches. Both of these were mutually dependent on one another and necessitated their combined use in order to be effective. The hard power approach would focus on the military might and human resources of our security forces, etc. While the soft power approach would concentrate on people empowerment involving the national and local government, the communities, the people of Marawi City, stakeholders, volunteers, media, and others.