BY CHAY F. HOFILEÑA
MANILA, Philippines – Ferdinand Topacio, the controversial lawyer of the Arroyos, caused a stir over Twitter and Facebook recently – not over his clients, but over a painting prominently displayed in his office.
It isn’t that of the former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or even the incumbent President Benigno Aquino III. Rather, it is a painting of Third Reich German chancellor Adolf Hitler.
Hitler, the infamous Fuhrer, had long been scorned by historians because of his anti-Semitic views which led to the inhumane killing of Jews. As many as six million are believed to have perished, many of them in gas chambers.
But to Topacio, an “amateur historian” by his own admission, Hitler is “one of the most misunderstood historical figures. “His main fault, his main crime, was that he lost the war. And as you know, history is written by the victors,” he says in an interview with Rappler.
Under threat of being charged with revisionism, Topacio says that Hitler was, in fact, a revolutionary.
“Very few people know that the concept of the paid vacation for workers was a brainchild of Adolf Hitler because his party, the Nazi party, is the national socialist workers’ democratic party. That is national socialism, and national socialism was formulated for the benefit of greater rights for the working class.”
Topacio adds, “From a relatively obscure retired corporal in the German army, he rose to prominence. He was not wealthy. He did not have pedigree. He did not have a high degree of education. He became chancellor of Germany through sheer will power and his vision of a greater society for the German people.”
What is worth emulating in Hitler, according to him, is his “single-minded vision for what he felt was better for all members of society.”
When Germans were starving in the streets, Hitler rose up and said that “with a determined leadership, Germany can be a great power again. And in fact, he made Germany a great power – something that the Germans can be proud of. It’s just that he lost the war,” Topacio says.
Law school challenges
The maverick lawyer of the Arroyos, known for taking on unpopular cases, was a provinciano working student in law school. He dropped out of the Ateneo Law School in his third year after having a run-in with fellow-Batangueño and then law professor Hernando “Nani” Perez.
A professor who built a reputation as a terror among students, Perez picked on the pint-sized Ferdie Topacio when he found out that he worked for his political nemesis then, Salvador “Doy” Laurel.
Not wont to run away from challenges, Topacio came prepared for class and even humiliation. But when Perez started picking on students around him because he was able to answer the tough questions, the Batangueño law student stood up to defend them.
“Sir, with all due respect, if you want to go after me, by all means, that’s your right, but spare these people, they have nothing to do with us,” he recalls telling Perez.
“Mr. Topacio, you’re impertinent,” Perez snapped back. Topacio countered, “No, you’re impertinent. Why are you taking it out on innocent people? You want to tangle with me, tangle with me. You want to tangle with me outside?”
After failing in another law class, Wills and Succession, Topacio was forced to drop out and move over to the University of the East (UE), where working students like him were given more leeway and understanding.
At UE, he got to know the law school dean at the time, Artemio Tuquero, who like Topacio, is a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Tuquero was justice secretary under former President Joseph Estrada.
Topacio was one of the 11.25% who passed the Bar in the late 1980s. This percentage is said to be the third lowest in the history of the Philippine Bar. There were 599 Bar takers at the time, Topacio recalls.
He now teaches Legal Ethics and Constitutional Law at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, and is described as a lawyer who has a good grasp of both sides of an argument. Tart and glib, he is a known comedian who has mastered the art of the sound bite.
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