MANILA, Philippines — Two senior Catholic prelates have urged fellow clergymen and the public to shun political neutrality when oppression exists.

People cannot remain neutral in the battle between good and evil, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan and retired Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said Dec. 12. reported they were responding to critics who say the separation of church and state means that no clergyman can endorse political candidates.

“When we are neutral and there is oppression, we end up empowering the oppressors,” Villegas said during a Mass Dec. 12. He said that when someone becomes neutral by not denouncing death and corruption, they become an ally of sin or the murderer.

“If the murderer is here present as well as the one being killed, if you are neutral, you are aiding the murderer, because neutrality in the face of murder favors the murderer,” Villegas said.

“For example, if there is a thief and the victim is also present, you cannot be neutral in that case. If you are, you are siding with the thief, because the moral choice is to defend the victim.”

The church has been a vocal critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and his war on drugs, which has seen thousands of drug suspects killed, as well as the deaths of activists after being branded rebel sympathizers, reported

Villegas also took aim at politicians who use professional online trolls to falsely discredit others and spread lies to make themselves popular among voters.

Bastes backed Villegas’s comments, saying clergymen like bishops could not remain neutral when a moral choice needed to be made.

“We must choose the right person,” Bastes told, adding that he personally would back current Vice President Leni Robredo in next year’s presidential polls.