MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has denied accusations that it is meddling in politics, saying that bishops only seek to speak the truth.

The denial followed a charge that the bishops are interfering in the presidential campaign by frontrunner Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who was angered by a recent pastoral letter urging Catholics not to vote for candidates guilty of distorting history, reported.

The letter, released by the bishops in advance of the May 9 election, was seen as criticizing Marcos Jr., who is accused of trying to whitewash abuses committed by his late father Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

“We see clearly that the church only wishes to speak the truth. Truth is not invented but rather attested to by historical records and documents,” Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the bishops’ public affairs committee, told The Inquirer newspaper March 6.

He was responding to March 5 comments by a Marcos spokesman, who accused the Catholic Church hierarchy of sowing divisions inside the church for their “hateful and negative campaigning.”

“While presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos is calling for unity, we are saddened by the men and women of the Catholic (Church) who are doing the exact opposite and have abused the pulpit, allowing it to become a platform for hateful and negative campaigning,” Victor Rodriguez, the spokesman, said.

He called on clergymen to stop issuing “reckless” statements that could divide rather than unite Filipino Catholics.

“As men and women of the cloth, they should be more circumspect, refrain from openly meddling in politics and stop making reckless imputations or statements that only serve as a spiritual, moral, social and cultural poison,” he added.

The bishops, however, accused Rodriguez of double standards by pointing to the recent endorsement of Marcos by a charismatic preacher.

“Ironically, when their camp received the endorsement of a lay religious leader, they did not complain,” Secillano said.

He also stressed that the Catholic Church has never been partisan yet remained committed to speaking about Gospel-based principles and values.

“In the battle against evil, injustice and lies, the church has always been brave in expressing her stand: she is against evil, she is not neutral,” Secillano said.

He said the church’s loyalty was for truth and for the people, not specific candidates.

“Being nonpartisan means her loyalty is neither with the candidate nor with any political party. It is with the people, she should always be for the people,” he said.

The church’s role, he added, is to form consciences “for a mature political exercise but leave the endorsement to the lay faithful.”