The Philippines’ Imelda Marcos has a dream – to restore her family to what she sees as its rightful place in Manila’s Malacanang presidential palace.
But standing in the way is president Benigno Aquino, the scion of another Philippine presidential dynasty, who is determined to bury the Marcos myth once and for all.
The authoritarian and corruption-ridden rule of Imelda’s husband Ferdinand Marcos was ended by a mass revolt almost three decades ago. The widespread hatred of the family has now ebbed and a burgeoning presidential run by their son means the Malacanang palace is well within his sights.
“I am proud of him and I will be prouder still if he will be like his father, a great president,” the 83-year-old Imelda said of Ferdinand Jr, a senator known by his nickname Bongbong.
She was speaking as she hit the campaign trail this week in the Marcos’s stomping ground of Ilocos Norte province ahead of congressional elections on Monday. Wearing a pink gown with her signature butterfly sleeves as she danced and sang with voters, Imelda displayed the pulling power that has paved the way for her family’s unlikely political comeback.
With Imelda a congresswoman, her daughter a provincial governor and Bongbong a popular senator, the Marcos brand is stronger than at any time since the 1986 People Power revolution ended what critics call a kleptocratic “conjugal dictatorship”.
But Aquino is an implacable foe, the son and namesake of Marcos’s political rival whose assassination at Manila airport in 1983 ignited the revolt that inspired the world. His mother Cory Aquino was the icon of the People Power revolution and replaced Marcos as president, ruling from 1986 to 1992.
Aquino is backing his own preferred candidate for 2016 to continue his efforts to stamp out corruption. By law, Aquino, voted to power in 2010 just months after his mother died, can serve only one six-year term.
The government has recovered just under a tenth of the wealth that the Marcos family and their associates are accused of plundering, estimated in 1987 to be $10 billion (£6.5bn).
Imelda has been charged with civil and criminal crimes, but has never been jailed despite evidence of massive wealth accumulated during her husband’s 1965-1986 rule, most famously in the form of her huge collection of designer shoes.
“They [the Marcoses] would like to be a force by 2016, that’s why they are building their machinery quietly,” said Loretta Ann Rosales, chairperson of the state-run Commission on Human Rights.
“That’s something that we should guard against, definitely.”