Outspoken Archbishop Oscar Cruz today said he is still receiving death threats because of his campaign against an illegal numbers racket known locally as jueteng. The former Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan said the latest threat came two weeks ago. "I received a check for P80,000 (US$ 1,918) and an envelope containing dried petals," he told a forum in Manila. "I think it’s not that hard to understand what that means," he said, adding, "I used to receive black ribbons cut into pieces." Philippine criminal syndicates and insurgents are known to threaten potential victims by sending black ribbons, flowers, bullets, sometimes even coffins. The warning is meant to give their target the chance to change their ways. The retired prelate said he was earlier told of a plot to kill him, but he said he will not stop his fight against illegal gambling in the country. "It’s hard to fight evil, and I’m already old," Archbishop Cruz said. "It’s a pity that instead of improving our values we are retrogressing," he added. "I don’t think [that this country] is going anywhere," he said. In 2004, Cruz established his anti-gambling group, People's Crusade Against Jueteng, with the aim of stamping out the illegal numbers racket, which is popular with rich and poor alike. The prelate said jueteng continues to thrive in the country, particularly in the northern provinces of Luzon Island, and has even invaded schools in Metro Manila. He said the "ballpark figure" jueteng earns for racketeers each day is at least $1 million. President Benigno Aquino yesterday vowed to eradicate jueteng while ordering a crackdown on small town lotteries, which he said are being used as fronts for illegal numbers rackets.
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