MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Three Catholic priests in the Philippines have been permanently relieved of all priestly duties after they declared their intention to run for public office in elections next year, the Philippine bishops’ conference said.

Father Noli Alparce of Sorsogon Diocese, Father Emergon Luego of Tagum Diocese and Father Granwell Pitapit of Libmanan Diocese have received decrees informing them of the sanction from their respective diocesan bishops, reported.

Under canon law, clergy are prohibited from serving in “public offices which entail a participation in the exercise of civil power,” an Oct. 26 statement from the bishops’ conference said.

Bishop Jose Rojas of Libmanan described Father Pitapit’s decision to enter politics as a “sad event.”

“Father Granwell Pitapit decided to leave the priestly ministry and the priesthood for personal reasons,” Bishop Rojas said in a letter to parishioners.

“Consequently, this decision to enter politics means his priestly functions are hereby revoked. This is deemed irreversible, thus preventing him from returning to the priestly ministry.”

Because Father Pitapit wished to leave the priesthood, he no longer represented the Catholic Church or the diocese, the bishop said.

He said that although the revocation is immediate, a priest could not “immediately” engage in marriage without undergoing a special process at the Vatican called laicization.

“Father Pitapit is now free, that is, without incurring further canonical censure, to engage in secular undertakings that do not necessarily violate his priestly vows,” Bishop Rojas said.

The decrees also mean that the priests were stripped of their roles in various church agencies. Each priest directed the Caritas humanitarian aid offices in their respective dioceses.

Father Alparce said he had filed his candidacy to run for a seat on a community council in Albay province after much prayer and deep discernment.

“The first thing that I did was to pray. It was not easy. I also consulted my brother priests and, most importantly, I listened to my heart and conscience,” Father Alparce told reporters Oct. 26.

Father Luego said he left the priesthood to run for mayor in Mabini, a town in Davao province.