Ever since she was a girl, Clarissa G. Ocampo wanted to be a banker. She used to love visiting her mother at Bank of America in Manila, where she worked as a clerk. Sure enough, Ocampo got a banking job fresh out of college, and after 24 years rose to vice-president of Equitable PCI Bank. But she hardly expected to become a national hero.
Yet that's what happened last December, when Ocampo testified during the impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada. She is known as the brave banker who blew the whistle on Estrada for using the alias Jose Velarde to hide funds widely suspected of being illegally obtained.
She came forward in December after Senate prosecutors alleged that a mansion bought for one of Estrada's mistresses had been paid for with a $2.8 million check signed by Velarde. Philippine law requires that public officials declare their assets, but Estrada had admitted to only $700,000. Ocampo's revelations helped spark mass protests that forced Estrada to quit in favor of Vice-President Gloria Arroyo in January.
Then senior vice-president of the trust department at Equitable PCI, where the Velarde account was based, Ocampo was the only bank officer who knew it belonged to the President. Her bosses backed her decision to testify and provided her with eight bodyguards until she appeared in court on Dec. 22. "I was very, very scared," she recalls. After her testimony, the bank flew Ocampo to the U.S. to await the outcome.
All the publicity has been a mixed blessing for the bank. Hundreds of Estrada loyalists pulled their deposits. But Ocampo, now a trust consultant, has become a role model, asked to speak at schools and youth clubs. "I'd like to help youth value the principles of integrity and a love of God," says the mother of three. Nowadays, Ocampo is recognized everywhere in Manila, though the bodyguards are still around. "I don't want to be high-profile," she says. "I'm a private person." Who said banking was dull?