MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ President Corazon Aquino's candidates led races for 23 of 24 Senate seats as the unofficial count of votes from this week's congressional elections approached the 50 percent mark today.

In other developments, government troops killed seven Communist rebels, two of them women, in a clash today in southeastern Luzon, the military reported. They provided no figure for government losses.

The military also reported 17 people killed, 11 of them New People's Army guerrillas, in widely scattered clashes Wednesday on the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Panay and Negros.

The clashes were the first reported between government and rebel forces since Monday's national congressional elections.

The private National Movement for Free Elections tabulated unofficial returns from about half the nation's approximately 104,500 voting precincts by today, but a high NAMFREL source said the sampling was not sufficient to predict the final outcome.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said less than 30 percent of the vote in at least six of the country's 13 regions had been counted.

A candidate of the right-center Grand Alliance for Democracy appeared likely to win the other seat. Movie actor Joseph Estrada ranked 17th among the 84 senatorial hopefuls. The top 24 finishers in the nationwide senatorial race receive seats.

Another Alliance candidate, opposition leader Juan Ponce Enrile, was 26th according to NAMFREL's tabulation. Mrs. Aquino fired Enrile as defense secretary in November following an alleged coup attempt by his followers, and he has charged the election was riddled with fraud.

Parties supporting the president were also winning a majority in the House of Representatives, whose members are elected by district.

The government-owned Philippine News Agency said pro-Aquino candidates were leading for 78 of the 200 elected House seats while opposition and independent hopefuls were ahead for 42. Returns for the other house seats were not available.

The count by the official Commission on Elections was proceeding at a slower rate than NAMFREL's, with commission executive director Vicente de Lima saying it had received returns representing only 700,000 ballots by today.

De Lima said the commission estimates more than 85 percent of the country's 26 million registered voters cast ballots in the first election under the Aquino administration.