Arraignment is a crucial step in criminal procedure, but the importance of the process is betrayed if a counsel de officio merely advises the accused to make a plea of "not guilty". In Franz Kafka's "The Trial", Francis K's predicament was precisely that he was unaware of the charges against him and yet the trial continued to proceed. And I looked at the blank faces of the detention prisoners and I could tell, most of them didn't know what was going on. That's why a counsel de officio doing services for the arraignment should inform the accused of the charges, the potential penalty, and other relevant matters, so that the accused could properly decide what to plea.
As the proceedings went on, I noticed the lawyers were doing their second round of duties already, and I had not been appointed yet. I looked at the small crowd in the courtroom, and it seemed they were wondering why this Manila lawyer in a blue suit was not doing what the local lawyers were doing. So, when my case was called, I told the Judge, "Your Honor, before we proceed, I noticed I am the only lawyer here who has not been appointed as counsel de officio, and I am getting embarrassed already. (Laughter from the lawyers and the court staff) So, please your Honor let me tell you I can do that work too, and I will stay a bit to help out the court perform its duties." After my case was called, I got appointed as counsel de officio to help in the arraignment of two brothers accused of theft. I can't write anything further without breaching confidentiality, so I will stop here. I'm new in General Santos, but I certainly like the legal community here.