Thematic Analysis: Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan

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Thematic Analysis: Smaller and Smaller Circles by F.H. Batacan

The Modern Face of Philippine Society
(Violence, Abuse, Crime, Justice)

F.H. Batacan’s Pinoy detective novel, Smaller and Smaller Circles, creatively presents the kind of society the Philippines has right now – how, nowadays, negative it has become. It shows a theme on violence and abuse, the other things that go with them like motivation (anger, etc) and consequences (results), and gives the readers an idea about how unfair the society can be most of the time especially to those who are incapable of speaking for themselves.

The novel starts off by presenting one face of violence in the story – the killings. It tells us that crime happens to everyone. No one is invulnerable to crimes. It can be anyone around us: a pregnant woman, a businessman, a driver, a teacher, a student, an adult or a kid. In the story, children about twelve or thirteen whose genitals, faces and hearts were removed are victimized. (pages 5 & 12) The [most] victims are “children of poor families.” (p. 13) The story is set in Payatas – a place which is known for its poverty. This fact somehow limits these victims from attaining justice. This idea will be discussed further later.

Another face of abuse presented here is the abuse of power. Many people who have authority in the society tend to use their power in the wrong way. Government officials, instead of helping the people, make them suffer by corrupting the nation’s funds and fooling them around with their flowery talks. Policemen, instead of bringing bad guys into prison, commit crimes themselves like asking for bribes and “lagay”. There are some cases in the Philippines where the police show the public someone – the ‘criminal’ – just to look good in front of the people’s eyes and to seem in control of everything. This is represented by Attorney Benjamin Arcinas’ character, the acting director of the National Bureau of Investigation who suddenly makes public a man named Carding who, according to him, handed over himself and confessed to everything. (chapters IX-XI) Policemen are supposed to imprison law-breakers and not forcefully bring them inside. If those who are given such power and responsibility practice their authority like this, there would be no more sense of justice in the country.

Furthermore, Philippine police’s ineffectiveness is presented in the novel as well. Quoting from the text: “Unlike in the United States or Europe, Philippine police and law enforcement authorities do not compile statistics on missing persons on a nationwide basis.” Worse, they seem to work just to earn more money. Continuing the quotation: “Most people with a missing relative are referred to the media, and little police effort, if any, is expended toward following the cases up after that – unless, of course, the victims are wealthy or influential.” (p. 19, emphasis mine)

The latter quoted statement gives us the idea that ‘small’ people, especially those below the poverty line, are not given the same treatment. If poor people complain, they are given less attention; actions to their cases are slow-paced. Worse, some do not bother complaining at all:

“Jerome and Saenz exchange looks. ‘Didn’t anybody complain?’
The mechanic sighs and shrugs, and although he doesn’t say a word, they know what he would have said anyway: complain about what? To whom? We didn’t want any trouble?” (p. 123, emphasis mine)
“We were too poor. We didn’t know what to do.” (p. 113)
“We talked about it when Alex was asleep. We were adults. We knew what happened. But we were afraid. Nobody talked about these things back then. We had no money. Where would we go? Who would help us?” (p. 114, emphasis mine)

Another abuse case presented in the novel, which motivated the criminal to do his sick plan, is sexual abuse. This happened inside the school. The criminal, Alejandro Benitez-Carlos Jr., was sexually abused by his homo P.E. high school teacher,...
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