It seems that your readers hook attention in recent days to the concept on integrity espoused by people in public favor that are our leaders both in business and government as something they could toy or toss around without consequential concern.

What comes to mind for the ones in our midst who pay critical attention of development economics and its transformation effect to our economy is that we are beginning to fetch and build new descriptive words in our popular vocabulary to describe the dark side of development economics going on here in the CNMI. The word “payola” or “pay-ola” is becoming an ordinary part of a language that urges thought processes tinkering the frailness of actors and the swoop it could make all because of the love of money. The word “payola” means a bribe, an illegal payoff. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines “payola” as: “the practice of bribing someone to use their influence or position to promote a particular product, service or interest.” Payola occurs when anything of value is accepted or agreed to be acceptable, in return for factual and actual action taken by a person in authority. A payment does not have to be money, it could involve explicit services (tit for tat) and it could be limousine ride, lobster dinner, a bottle of favored wine, and so on and on.

When integrity is bastardized in any shape or form by those closely and actively involved in development is leading the rest of us feel no personal responsibility for improving our people’s moral condition. One would ask the obvious question: Are we heading on direct course to a dangerous and destructive social transformation going around in the CNMI today? Here is the dilemma. It is that if enough people do a certain thing often enough, then that certain thing can be considered right. But, we all know that wrong is wrong even if everyone does it, and right is right even if no one does it. What is critical at this stage of the development economics here in the CNMI is that the danger comes from moral deterioration within the people and governing institutions than from any external forces. The foundation of the freedom that we cherished in our self-government status as a Commonwealth is threatened, for freedom can exist only in the presence of responsible, individual moral character. Is it too much to expect from the people in public favor that happiness and good life is the rule? But, is it honest enough to tell those closest to the actions that the word is “integrity” to dealings and farming of good and plentiful harvest for the rest of us?

What is the meaning of “integrity”? Why it means wholeness, it means soundness, it means to be intact. As life becomes more complex for us here in the CNMI and the simple life driven out of our usual existence, then everyday adds to the importance and seriousness of this word. Integrity means the “character” in the person. When one faces a choice between right or wrong, a crisis takes its domino effects in that one asks the obvious, if I do this I will lose my integrity. Or, if I do this I will lose an opportunity, I will lose a profit, I will lose my position, I will lose my acquisition of an honest living, and so on. Too often children are taught early in life in their schooling days that it is alright to cheat at school because of the pressure is on him to make a high grade, he loses his integrity. When a contractor enters in a contract to build a structure and uses poorer materials than is expected and specified, he loses his integrity. It is imperative in the CNMI that business executives, given the privilege of developing social responsible businesses and future business leaders of the CNMI community, keep their word, keep their principles, keep their integrity.

Integrity is “courage.” The balancing principle of development economics is that there is a need today for our people, more so the indigenous people, to speak out with boldness upon moral issues of our day—in business, in government, in every phase of life. Obviously, this takes courage. Moral courage is a result of deep convictions about God and the moral order which he sustains all mankind. This is our last hope and for those who courageously participate in constructive fashion that when our moral compass are being influenced and redirected or retracted by our most public favor figures in business and government, then the incorruptible moment is now as the time to draw and keep the conversations lively and purposeful for the good of the people who have acquired their homeland in the CNMI. Integrity is contagious in that it is a public good and perpetuity of its social value should be a constitutional and spiritual urge to living well in a good society for our CNMI people.

Francisco R. Agulto
Kanat Tabla, Saipan

Contributing Author

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