On January 20, 2017, father and aunt of the late CVM student Uriel Salera, Mr. Orlan Salera and Dr. Leila Salera came to the UPLB Perspective office in hopes and request of the release of their open letter. It read:
“Last December 20, 2016, my brother, Uriel’s father called our mother to tell her that the letter from the UPLB Student Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has arrived. The SDT had ordered that the case of my nephew’s death that happened after undergoing the initiation activities of the Org. Rodeo Club be addressed by the Student Organization and Activities Division (SOAD). It also stated that the Org. complies to the provisions mentioned in the letter.
The decision was acceptable to us. It was fair. It does not in any way lessen the pain of our loss, but in some measurement, we felt that the SDT did their part, and with that I send these messages:
To the Org. that recruited my nephew, Uriel Salera.
Uriel was very excited to be part of your Org. His grandmother was totally against it, but because he wanted to truly experience everything that college had to offer, she relented and joined his father and me in supporting his desire to join you. He was willing to do everything just so he could become a member. He did his best to comply to your requirements. We did not share his enthusiasm, but we were proud of him, and it made us happy knowing how determined he was to finish what he started. He truly believed that becoming a member of your Org. would benefit him as a student and as a person.
That day we were so helpless. We could not do anything as my nephew lay lifeless. We could only take some small measurement of comfort knowing that he died with his family and did not suffer. It would have been so much more painful if he was taken and he was not with us. That is why we took offense when you said that we were not the only ones who suffered a loss, and that you did as well. The audacity of that statement saying you not only lost a recruit, but you also lost a friend. Years will go by and you will have new recruits. Most of them may become your friends. We will never have that luxury. No one will ever fill the void my nephew left when he passed away. That pain will never go away and none of you will ever understand that.
Uriel wanted to join your Org. He was recruited by your Org. Plain and simple. But is seems that you have decided that it was alright to have the mentality that you join at your own risk. Everything was voluntary and you were not forced. You join, take the risk. It comes out as you being satisfied that a recruit survives your initiation process, and will not care at all if a recruit does not. And because of that, you did nothing to ensure the safety of my nephew.
You said that you didn’t want to say anything anymore because you didn’t want to sound like you are defending yourselves too much. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Defend yourselves? Which would appear more that you have something to hide? You defending yourselves, or you keeping silent? You were not forthcoming during the first meeting with the SDT. You only told us the whole truth during the second meeting and you kept mentioning the words “physically fit” regarding your recruits. You dare mention those words yet you failed to ensure the safety of your recruits including my nephew. What you made him go through was unacceptable. What would you have done if he collapsed during the initiation? The pain was already all to great when we he died in his father’s arms. You could and will never be able to imagine the pain if he died and he was away from his loved ones. 2016 was supposed to be a special year for Christmas in our family. It would have been the year that the whole family were together during Christmas since my father, Uriel’s grandfather had finally retired since he started working in the UAE since 2003. Our family would have been complete after spending so many holidays with his grandfather away from us. You have robbed us of that.
Know this. The family may have decided not to pursue any legal actions against you but do not in any way think that you are off the hook. We still hold you responsible. We will not forget this. My brother, Uriel’s father asked only one thing from you. Acknowledge my nephew’s death. Acknowledge your negligence, and let everyone know about it. Let my nephew’s death be a wake-up call. We want it published!
The statements you sent my brother just expressed your sentiments about my nephew but none of them acknowledged how you were not able to do your part in ensuring the safety of my nephew and all your recruits. None of those sentiments reflected how sorry you were for being so irresponsible, and none of those sentiments expressed how any of you will take responsibility over what happened. Let it serve as a stern warning. Be very careful and ensure the safety of your future recruits, and this goes to all the Orgs. Don’t let my nephew become just a statistic.”
According to Mr. Salera, the option to escalate the case further has always remained open. “I would like to comment upon the very lamentable way the Rodeo Club has handled the issue regarding the death of my only son and child, Uriel F. Salera. After 2 hearings with the SDT, after which we came to an agreement (or so I thought), that they would abide by my wishes for them to acknowledge my son and to put in writing that they will take the proper steps in order to avoid a repeat of this very tragic incident. All these are recorded. This did not happen,” he added.