Philippine police say 14 suspected communist rebels have been killed after they opened fire during raids but rights groups countered the men were farmers and the latest victim of extrajudicial killings.

Regional police chief Debold Sinas says police backed by army troops were to conduct court-authorized home searches Saturday in three towns in Negros Oriental province when the 14 violently fought back. Fifteen others were arrested while six escaped in the anti-insurgency and criminality sweep.

Human rights and farmers' groups on Sunday condemned the killings of the men they said were farmers, including two village chiefs, and called for an independent investigation.

They say six farmers were killed and more than 50 others arrested in similar police raids in December in the central region.