Imelda Marcos, the former Philippine first lady and the stuff of shoemakers’ dreams, has a new vocation.

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Imelda Marcos, the former Philippine first lady and the stuff of shoemakers’ dreams, has a new vocation. The Philippine parliament, their faces straighter than a Manolo Blahnik seam, has named Marcos – the biggest of the big spenders – the country’s champion of the poor, appointing her chair of a key committee tasked with halving poverty by 2015.

The story of the spendthrift queen’s unlikely renaissance already ran like a Filipino joke that doesn’t translate. Her husband, Ferdinand Marcos, was one of the great crooks of the 20th century: he looted up to $30bn of the country’s money during his 20-year dictatorship – recalled un-fondly as the Marcos Kleptocracy – leaving the Philippines in a lasting economic funk. “We practically own everything in the Philippines,” Imelda once famously quipped to the Manila press. When exile and humiliation followed, it seemed little more than the Marcoses deserved.

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