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How does state rhetoric change as conflict intensifies against intrastate enemies? We forward the concept of narrative expansion and labeling, to analyze the escalatory transformation of conflict discourse by the Philippine state media. The data set includes 4,098 articles from the state’s official news agency, covering early attempts at reconciliation and the eventual failure of peace negotiations between the Philippine Government and the National Democratic Front (NDF). Analysis involves a mixed methods approach, combining computational network analytics of word networks with a qualitative interpretation of emergent themes. Results reveal a discursive shift emanating from the state’s mouthpiece, alongside the political deterioration of peace talks with the NDF. The state narrative initially expands to include not only conciliatory but also confrontational talk. Eventually combative talks dominate, including a shift in labeling the enemy as terrorist rather than rebel. Narrative expansion likewise refers to state news discursively increasing the number of social actors involved in the conflict as either enemy or ally. Our findings contribute to understanding how discursive shifts may move from conciliatory to hostile discourse in a protracted intrastate conflict.