September 24, 2012
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Outspoken Archbishop Oscar Cruz said he continues to receive death threats because of his campaign against an illegal numbers racket known locally as jueteng.

The retired archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Philippines, said the most recent threat came in early September, the Asian Church news agency UCA News reported.

"I received a cheque for 80,000 (Philippine) pesos ($1,918) and an envelope containing dried petals," he told a forum in Manila Sept. 18.

DEATH THREATS

"I think it's not that hard to understand what that means," he added. "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 and even coffins. Such warnings are meant to serve notice for a target to change their ways.

The retired prelate said he was earlier told of a plot to kill him, but he indicated he would not stop his fight against illegal gambling.

"It's hard to fight evil and I'm already old. It's a pity that instead of improving our values we are retrogressing," Cruz said.

PEOPLE'S CRUSADE

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, and has even invaded schools in metropolitan Manila.

He said the "ballpark figure" that racketeers earn each day from the game is at least $1 million.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino has vowed to eradicate jueteng and ordered a crackdown on small-town lotteries, which he said are being used as fronts for illegal numbers rackets.