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The BBC's John McLean in Manila
"It is unlikely that normality will return to the Philippines for a long time"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 11:55 GMT
Bank chief 'ordered Estrada cover up'
President Estrada
Estrada said he would testify if his lawyers approved
A senior bank official has told the impeachment trial of Philippine President Joseph Estrada that she was ordered by her boss to cover up a bank account held by the president under a false name.


[I am] afraid for my life and the security of my family

Clarissa Ocampo
As the trial resumed after the holiday break, Clarissa Ocampo, senior vice president of Equitable PCI Bank, said she was asked to replace original papers relating to a multimillion dollar account of "Jose Velarde".

The prosecution says the president used a bank account under the name of Jose Velarde to illegally acquire a large house for a mistress.

Swat officers investigates a mysterious package
Security has been stepped up after warnings of more bombs
Ms Ocampo told the court that the bank's then chairman, George Go, a close friend of the president, told her to prepare documents to show the account was held by businessman Jaime Dichaves.

Ms Ocampo also testified that a lawyer for Mr Estrada unsuccessfully solicited her help in covering up evidence against the president, who is charged with bribery and corruption.

Mr Go resigned as the bank's chairman last month.

Fears for life

The trial heard that Ms Ocampo feared for her life and that of her family.

Injured person from explosion in Manila
More than 100 were injured in the blasts
"Especially after the bombings, I was really very concerned," she said, referring to Saturday's series of explosions in Manila which killed 15 people and injured about 100 others.

Last month, Ms Ocampo provided the most damaging testimony when she confirmed that Mr Estrada owned an account with at least $10m under the alias Jose Velarde.

The trial opened on 7 December with the prosecution presenting a $2.8m cheque bearing the signature Jose Velarde, arguing the handwriting was the same as the president's.

Bomb theory

However, the prosecution has yet to prove its allegations that the $10m in the secret bank account was part of an illegally-acquired fortune.

President Estrada in church
Mr Estrada denies the charges
Mr Estrada, the first Asian president to face an impeachment trial, will be removed from office if two-thirds of the Senate find him guilty. He denies the charges.

The political tension created by the trial has been exacerbated by Saturday's bombings.

It's still unclear who was behind the attacks, but some opposition members have blamed the government.

Their theory is that the bombings will allow Mr Estrada to declare martial law and thus remain in power regardless of his trial. The government denies this.

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See also:

22 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Surprise witness stuns Estrada trial
22 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Pressure mounts on Estrada to testify
20 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada bank records 'doctored'
15 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Judge demands Estrada bank details
19 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada trial hears 'tapping' claims
18 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
New twist in Estrada trial
10 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Estrada: Movie hero or villain?
16 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Philippines' trying trial
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